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A voice has been missing from the political debate over the future of Social Security and Medicare — yours.

AARP wants to fix that. For more than a year, the president and Congress have been talking about changes to Medicare and Social Security as part of a budget deal without any discussion about how changes would affect you and your family.

The Utah Legislature passed legislation to join a health care compact that would gives states power over Medicare without first assessing the impact on beneficiaries. And lawmakers approved a resolution supporting a Social Security solvency plan in Congress that would cut benefits.

Enough is enough. Starting next week, we're taking the debate out from behind the closed doors in Washington, and launching You've Earned a Say — a national conversation to ensure you and the people of Utah have a say in the future of Medicare and Social Security, because you've earned your benefits by paying into the two programs for years. You deserve to know what changes politicians are putting on the table and how they will affect you and your family.

AARP will sponsor town halls, community conversations, debates, and other events so you can share your views and ideas about how to keep Social Security and Medicare strong for future generations. We will be holding several conversations in Utah and welcome the public regardless of age or membership in AARP.

Your voice is needed because your health and retirement security are at stake. Medicare is facing financial challenges, especially due to ever-rising costs in the broader health care system. More specifically, the Medicare fund that pays hospital bills will face a shortfall inĀ 2024. Social Security can pay all promised benefits until about 2036, and after that, it can still pay 75 percent. That's not good enough, however, so policy decisions will have to be made.

Social Security and Medicare are the foundation of income and health security in retirement for most Americans.

Here in Utah, 324,136 residents depend on Social Security benefits to help pay the bills every month, and 286,630 Utahns count on Medicare to help them afford health care, including guaranteed coverage for doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs.

That's why we're going to ensure that you have easy access to information about the programs and the challenges they face, free of Washington spin and jargon. Our website ( will give you straightforward information and enable you to share your ideas about how to strengthen these programs with Congress and the political candidates.

This dialogue takes on extra meaning in an election year. We urge candidates for Congress and the White House to be forthcoming about their plans for Social Security and Medicare.

Voters have a right to know their views, so they can weigh them carefully in evaluating candidates and making the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Whatever the politicians propose, they need to hear how it would impact you and your family. Washington needs to hear from you and the people of Utah that the future of Medicare and Social Security isn't just a debate about budget numbers but a debate about people's lives.

You also can show that it's possible to discuss important issues without partisan bickering. All Americans have an interest in keeping Social Security and Medicare strong for our children and grandchildren.

All Americans should have the chance to hear the facts and speak their minds. When it comes to the future of Social Security and Medicare, you've earned a say.

Alan Ormsby is the state director of AARP Utah.