Business CEOs call for raising retirement age

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm •  Published: January 16, 2013
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"These ideas were soundly rejected in the last election only a few months ago," said Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The CEOs' plan puts them at odds with many groups that lobby on behalf of older Americans.

In a speech this week, A. Barry Rand, AARP's CEO, denounced proposals to increase the eligibility age for Medicare, saying it would shift costs to employers, state governments and individuals.

"This is pure folly and very dangerous," Rand said.

Retirees can now get reduced Social Security benefits starting at age 62. Retirees must wait until they are 66 to get full Social Security benefits, a threshold that is gradually rising to 67. The eligibility age for Medicare is 65. The business group's plan would make unspecified accommodations for people with physically demanding jobs.

Social Security and Medicare both face long-term financial problems as aging baby boomers reach retirement, leaving relatively fewer workers behind to fund the massive benefit programs.

The trustees who oversee Social Security say the trust funds that support the retirement and disability program will run out of money in 2033, unless Congress acts. At that point, payroll taxes would generate only enough money to pay about three-fourths of benefits.

Medicare is in worse shape. Its trust fund for inpatient care is projected to run dry in 2024, leaving the program unable to cover all its bills.

"The facts are clear: If we want future generations to have access to Social Security and Medicare, America can no longer afford to wait," said Randall L. Stephenson, Chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. "The time to act is now."

Among the CEOs' proposals:

—Adopt a new government inflation measure that would result in smaller annual increases in Social Security benefits.

—Make initial Social Security benefits more progressive by guaranteeing low-wage workers enough benefits to stay out of poverty, while lowering initial benefits for retirees with higher incomes.

—Require newly hired state and local workers to join Social Security. Some state and local agencies are not part of the system.

—Expand means testing for Medicare benefits so that wealthier recipients must pay more for services.

—Improve Medicare services for low-income people by better coordinating prevention and care for chronic conditions.

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Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

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Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap



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