Issue Position: Supporting Seniors
WHERE I STAND
American seniors are a fundamentally important part of our nation's life. Aging is a natural process that we all experience and retirement with security and dignity is something that we should all look forward to after working through our adult life. For many people, retirement is the most active time of life and the country needs the continued involvement of seniors in community life. I am concerned about the quality of life of America's seniors who need essential services.
I do not support the policies and budget cuts of this current Administration and Congress, which have done little to reduce the cost of health care for older Americans and ensure their economic security in retirement. Many have proposed privatizing Social Security and cutting the appropriations for the Older Americans Act, Medicare and Medicaid. Washington has recently given us Medicare Part D, which has done nothing to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and will mean some seniors actually pay more for their prescription drugs. President Bush recently exercised his first veto on legislation supporting stem cell research, which can be instrumental in curing diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
In the Arizona Legislature, I worked to make sure we invest in health care and long term care services for seniors. I worked closely with the Pima Council on Aging on legislation to make sure that we ensured the well-being of seniors. In Congress, I will continue to be a strong advocate for seniors working to increase economic security and provide good health care for our elders. Congressional action is urgently needed to protect essential services for seniors:
Efforts to privatize Social Security undermine the key safety net of American society and are not necessary. With Social Security providing the majority of the income that many seniors live on, it is not fair or wise to jeopardize that security by gambling with those resources. To create solvency for the next century, we should consider raising the taxable income level for those who earn high incomes and convening a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to adjust the financing of Social Security in order to ensure its long-term stability.
We must act to:
* oppose using Social Security taxes to fund private accounts.
* stop the raids on the Social Security Trust Fund that are used to help cover the unprecedented federal budget deficits.
* develop a bi-partisan plan that will protect Social Security benefits as the baby boom generation moves into the system.
* repeal discriminatory laws that reduce the benefits earned by workers under certain public retirement plans.
* promote additional options for employment-based IRAs and 401K plans to encourage increased savings for retirement.
* create incentives for employers to maintain a defined benefit pension system to defend retirement security.
Older Americans Act
It is estimated that more than 36 million people in the United States are over the age of 65 and that number will rise sharply in future years. This year, members of the Baby Boom generation begin turning 60. In 2011, the first boomers' will reach 65 and by 2030, it is projected that one in five people will be 65 or older. The Older Americans Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, authorized support for community planning and services programs for seniors over 60. While this Act is becoming increasingly critical, it has fallen off of the national agenda and been subjected to funding cuts.
We must act to:
* strengthen the Older Americans Act to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing older population.
* fully fund the National Family Caregiver Support Program which helps families who are struggling to care for their older loved ones who are ill or who have disabilities and grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren.
* improve access to health care by supporting resource centers in every community where older Americans and their families can go for reliable information about long-term care options, community support services, and important health benefits such as Medicare prescription drug coverage.
* encourage all states and communities to plan for an increasing number of older Americans.
Medicare is a program which is critical to the seniors of this nation and it must be safeguarded with efforts at real reform, versus the current industry driven "improvements." Strong fiscal management is needed for cost containment - especially as the government competes against the pressure from corporate interests. The new Medicare prescription drug plan must be simplified, streamlined and made truly progressive and universal by ending the giveaways to drug companies and HMOs.
We must act to:
* allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices to reduce costs with the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program.
* expand eligibility for Medicare to allow individuals to enroll at age 50.
* oppose arbitrary across the board cuts in payments to Medicare providers.
* address the "donut hole" the complete lack of coverage for drug spending between $2,251 and $5,100 that affects 25% of Medicare recipients.
Long Term Care
At the point where seniors choose or need long term care, our goal should be a system that allows a person to maintain dignity and maximize independence. Long-term care is an expensive proposition for seniors who do not have family close-by or need more serious care. Qualifying for Medicaidthe only public funding for long-term carerequires very low assets and income or spending almost everything to pay for care. Private insurance is too expensive or unavailable for most. We need affordable options where people can to choose, buy and manage their care, along with accessible advice to help make and manage care choices.
We must act to:
* allow Medicaid funds to be used for a cost effective long term care cash benefit program to give people more control over their own care.
* create incentives that promote innovative models of non-institutional long term care.
* support Aging and Disabilities Resource Centers to create a single point of access to the range of services available to seniors, including home and community-based long-term care options.
* oppose Medicaid budget cuts that would result in fewer services and put people on waiting lists.
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