Most at Tester listening session in Missoula agree Medicare, Social Security must change


by Jenna Cederberg

Medicare and Social Security are critical federal programs – but programs that need change quickly if they’re going to remain solvent in years to come.

Most agreed to that point Monday afternoon at a listening session for senior citizens on the future of Social Security and Medicare, hosted by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. The event was moderated by Missoula Aging Services’ Jean Bowman, who used an AARP “You’ve Earned a Say” survey to guide the discussion.

“It’s no secret we face some real budget challenges, but they can be done responsibly or irresponsibly, depending on how we address them,” Tester said to open the session, adding that Montanans have some of the best ideas when it comes to solving critically important issues.

Then he listened as people like Gayle Teichert told him their ideas.

The U.S. needs a single-payer, one-plan system, Teichert said.

“Unless universal health care, a single-payer system, becomes a mandate in our country, I will fight to keep Medicare the way it is because it’s going to save me later,” Teichert said.

Others said doing things like raising the retirement age and finding ways to increase funding, such as having seniors with higher incomes pay more into the system, would help improve Medicare.

When Bowman asked what is the biggest challenge facing Medicare, several people pointed to exorbitant administrative costs and fraud.

Vondene Kopetski listened throughout the session, having come to sort out all the information she’s been hearing on the subjects.

“I’m a senior. I’ve heard so many different things on TV about what’s happening with Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” Kopetski said. When it comes to Social Security, the crowd wondered if some more wealthy seniors could opt out of benefits, to help save the system money.