Historically, seniors have taken their election voting seriously. And this year's mid-term vote should be no different. If you're going to vote, please spend some time on the AARP website to learn about the candidates' positions on key senior issues.
It's times like these when the resources of the country's dominant seniors' organization are apparent. AARP has developed a powerful interactive voting guide. All you have to do is enter your address and you will see a list of the candidates who will be on your ballot, and their positions on several issues that AARP considers key for the senior community. I usually do not provide my street address in online surveys but do consider AARP a trusted site.
Here are the five issues highlighted for U.S. House and Senate races in the guide, and excerpts from AARP's positions:
1. Social Security solvency. "Congress should take action to strengthen Social Security not only for current beneficiaries, but for our children and grandchildren."
2. Deficit reduction and Social Security. "Unfortunately, there are proposals to reduce the deficit by cutting Social Security benefits Americans have earned over a lifetime of hard work. Social Security is paid for by contributions from workers and their employers and has not added to the deficit. Instead of cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit, Congress needs to crack down on waste and inefficient spending and make the tough decisions to fairly balance revenue and spending."
3. Medicare fraud. "Congress should strengthen Medicare's ability to crack down on fraud and abuse, which would protect Medicare beneficiaries, save tax dollars and strengthen the program. Specifically, Congress should increase legal penalties on scam artists for fraud, give prosecutors more tools to punish criminals, and shine a spotlight on crimes being committed against people in Medicare." (I would have liked the group to poll candidates on whether they felt the new health reform law improved or damaged Medicare coverage for seniors. This issue has fueled a lot of campaign rhetoric but polls indicate seniors remain confused about the law's actual provisions.)
4. Access to physicians for medicare beneficiaries. "Seniors are in increasing danger of not being able to find a doctor who will see them. For over a decade, doctors who treat Medicare patients have faced steep pay cuts due to a flawed payment system. But instead of fixing the problem, Congress has once again put the cut on hold—this time until the end of November. Due to this lack of stability, many doctors have stopped accepting Medicare patients. Congress needs to find a long-term solution to this problem that improves seniors' quality of care, and provides doctors with stable pay."
5. What are the candidates' plans to increase employment and economic security. "Since the recession began, Americans have been hit with devastating job losses, shrinking retirement savings, declining home values, and rising health care costs—many older Americans nearing retirement have been disproportionately impacted."
For state and local elections, AARP's key issues are about state implementation of healthcare reform, long-term care services, support programs to help seniors stay in their homes, utility regulations, and other consumer safeguards.
To provide candidates' positions, AARP says it reviewed campaign materials and asked candidates their stance on specific items. Don't be surprised if the guide comes up empty on some issues. More than 85 percent of the candidates for national office had positions on at least one of the five measures, an AARP spokeswoman says. But in my Congressional race, by contrast, neither candidate had taken a campaign position on any of AARP's five issues, and both declined to respond to the group's request for information.
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