With the 2018 midterm elections pending, many aging Americans are keeping a sharp eye on the issues that affect them most. Paying attention to what candidates say about these important issues can help aging adults cast their votes wisely. Whether you’re in an independent living community or an assisted living facility or even a nursing home, politicians can have an impact on your health and care.
If you guessed that the future of Medicare and Social Security sit at the top of seniors' concerns, you'd be right. Take a look at this overview of how candidates in the states with the highest numbers of seniors are responding to these important issues as the election approaches.
Please note, this is an independent, non-partisan overview and should be interpreted as such. If there are areas where you feel a politician’s position is improperly represented please let us know.
Social Security and Medicare
It's understandable that seniors are concerned about the future of Social Security — after all, without it, their immediate financial future could be at risk. In Texas, for instance, 41 percent of seniors would fall below the poverty level without Social Security.
So what do Senatorial candidates plan to do about Social Security and Medicare?
- Republican Senatorial candidate Martha McSally opposes privatization of Social Security and is against allowing people to divert Social Security funds into private accounts. She has called for protection of Social Security and Medicare.
- Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema also opposed privatization of Social Security, but she has gone further than McSally in her stand against it, standing against a Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. She has stated that attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare are an assault on aging adults' dignity.
- Due to California's non-partisan primary law, both candidates for U.S. Senate in 2018 are Democrats.
- Current Senator Dianne Feinstein has long opposed all attempts to privatize Social Security, including pre-funding for Social Security and establishment of personal retirement accounts. She has supported personal retirement savings accounts for low-income citizens, and has called for structural reforms in Social Security and Medicare to slow the growth of costs.
- Challenger Democrat Kevin de Leon drew a lot of flak in 2017 when he stated that half his family probably had false Social Security cards and might be subject to deportation. While he hasn't made specific policy statements about Social Security and Medicare, he was instrumental in creating an automatic IRA program for low-income private sector employees, the first of its kind in the nation.
- Democratic Senatorial candidate Bill Nelson has long opposed the privatization of Social Security. However, he has called for structural reform of both Social Security and Medicare to restrain cost growth. He opposes any proposal to pre-fund Social Security as a back-door effort to privatize the programs.
- Current Florida Governor Rick Scott, running for Senate, hasn't made any policy statements about Social Security, though he has said that he wants all citizens to have 401(k) accounts. While he opposed the Affordable Care Act, participating in a legal challenge to have it overturned, he committed to the expansion of Medicaid in Florida for a three-year trial period.
- Republican Senatorial candidate Geoff Diehl has promised never to cut Social Security and Medicare while also calling for deep reforms to the systems. He claims that large numbers of illegal immigrants are stealing Social Security numbers, and supports legislation asking the IRS to provide a report explaining how they might be able to stop this.
- Sitting Massachusetts Senator, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, has stated that she considers cuts to Social Security a breach of trust to seniors. She believes that modest changes to the system can keep it solvent without jeopardizing benefits, and she is opposed to privatization of Social Security.
- Democrat Sherrod Brown, a sitting U.S. Senator for Ohio and 2018 candidate, believes both the Social Security and Medicare systems have been reliable. He would consider raising the retirement age for future generations, but not for the Baby Boomers who have already begun to collect benefits. He rejects proposals to privatize Social Security, and he doesn't believe the national budget should be balanced by making cuts to Social Security.
- Republican Senate candidate Jim Renacci has said that he is in favor of privatizing Social Security; he has also said that he is not in favor of it. In general, though, his statements lean strongly in favor of privatization. He believes the Social Security system is facing a fiscal crisis.
- Although Republican Senate candidate Lou Barletta has consistently said that he opposes privatization of Social Security, he also calls for severe cutting of Social Security and Medicare benefits. He is also in favor of raising the eligibility age for Medicare, and he believes in turning Medicare into a voucher system, despite predictions that doing so would increase seniors' health care costs.
- Sitting Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, considers privatization of Social Security, including proposals to divert Social Security funds to the stock market, to be "crazy." He believes privatization drains money from Social Security benefits. The answer to protecting Social Security is, according to Casey, growing the economy and reducing tax cuts on the upper 1 percent of taxpayers.
- Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who has labeled Social Security a "Ponzi scheme," recently sponsored legislation to remove the automatic enrollment link between Medicare and Social Security. He wants seniors to be free to leave Medicare and choose private health insurance instead. Cruz has also proposed raising the retirement age for younger generations and abolishing the payroll tax, which pays for Social Security and Medicare.
- Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke has proposed an extended four-step plan to expand Medicare, eventually transitioning to "Medicare for all" by lowering the eligibility age by one decade per year. He does not support privatization of Social Security, and has promised to protect Social Security, Medicare, and the idea of retirement with dignity.
- While politics sometimes feels like a game, real issues such as the future of Social Security and Medicare affect the lives of many aging adults. Paying attention to the issues and voting according to your conscience is the best way to participate in the country's democracy.
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