Voters age 50 and older are expected to turn out in force in this, the mother of all presidential elections. We offer this guide on what the three presidential candidates still in the race have had to say about the issues of key importance to this voting bloc:
Social Security: The gift that we hope keeps on giving.
There are around 40 million people collecting Social Security benefits. Over half of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 have no retirement savings, according to the GAO. More than a third of senior citizens depend on Social Security for virtually all of their income. Yes, Social Security is a vital concern.
The problem is that the Social Security system is on track to run out of money. That, by most estimates, won’t happen until 2033, at which point — assuming nothing else is done — it plans on reducing benefits by 25 percent.
Everyone wants to fix Social Security so that the fund doesn’t go broke; they just don’t agree on how to do it. There are at least a dozen ways and plans that have been proposed to “save” Social Security. Here’s how the leading candidates say they will do it, according to their websites:
Hillary Clinton’s website says, “Hillary understands that there is no way to accomplish that goal without asking the highest-income Americans to pay more, including options to tax some of their income above the current Social Security cap, and taxing some of their income not currently taken into account by the Social Security system.”
She would also fight privatization, oppose any reduction of the annual cost-of-living adjustment, and not raise the retirement age — an idea she has called “unfair;” the GAO says that raising the retirement age disproportionately hurts the poor.
She would also expand Social Security benefits for widows and those who took time out of the paid workforce to care for a child or sick family member.
Donald Trump’s website focuses on seven key positions and mentions about a dozen other issues. Social Security isn’t among them. Trump believes that strengthening the economy and creating more jobs would, in turn, generate more payroll-tax support for Social Security. At the South Carolina GOP debate on Feb 13, 2016, Trump also said there is waste, fraud and abuse in the program. He said, “We have in Social Security thousands of people over 106 years old. You know they don’t exist. There’s tremendous waste, fraud and abuse, and we’re going to get it. But we’re not going to hurt the people who have been paying into Social Security their whole life and then all of a sudden they’re supposed to get less. We’re bringing jobs back.”
Bernie Sanders’ website notes the senator has already introduced legislation to lift the payroll cap so that those who earn more than $250,000 a year pay the same percentage of their income into Social Security as do middle class and working families.
He says, “This would not only extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 50 years, but also bring in enough revenue to expand benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments; and lift more seniors out of poverty by increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income seniors.”
Medicare: The plan we love to hate.
Medicare pays for hospital care for those age 65 and over, and heavily subsidizes their doctors’ visits, medical tests and drugs. But it is far from free. Almost all seniors pay monthly premiums for some parts of Medicare, and many also enroll in a supplemental insurance plan, Medigap, to help cover out-of-pocket costs.
TheWeek reports that in 2010, the nation’s Medicare bill was about $524 billion, or 15.2 percent of all government spending. Only Social Security and the defense budget cost taxpayers more.
One of the most frustrating parts of Medicare is not knowing what is covered. Eye glasses, hearing aids and dentures are not (no dental care at all) — three things that seniors regularly need. Low-income seniors sometimes must choose between filling their expensive prescriptions and buying groceries. According to Hunger in America, 30 percent of its client households with seniors said they have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care.
Clinton’s plan is to push down drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices with drug manufacturers. She would allow Americans to import lower-cost drugs from foreign countries and reward drug companies that invest in the development of “life-saving treatments rather than jacking up prices without innovation.” Her changes will save Medicare more than $100 billion in program spending, her campaign claims.
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