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Presidential Candidates on Healthcare

Tough Questions an Insurance Agent Would Ask the Candidates

2016 Election Day: it’ll be here sooner than we think. If you live in a “swing state” (I’m looking at you, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida!) you’re probably already sick of the Presidential attack ads on TV and the glossy mailers in your mailbox.

But like it or not, the elections are sneaking up on us, and the two Presidential candidates could not be further apart on their views towards almost all of the issues. And don’t forget – all US Representatives are up for election, as well as a huge number of US Senators, come this November. If you’re a real political junkie, you may also be aware that state-based primary elections are underway, and that many state laws can also affect our health care.

Most folks will tell you to avoid talking about money, politics, and religion. So, why is an Insurance Agent talking about one of the three? Because I’ve been voting for a long time, and every year, I find it increasingly difficult to find out where the candidates stand.

I try to research the issues that matter to me most….only to be left with confusion. So I’m here to take some of the guesswork out for you!

Pro Tip: Visit your county’s Supervisor of Election website to view your sample ballot. Print a copy so you can make notes while you do your research!

Baby Boomers are one of the most active voting blocks so I’m sure you’re getting plenty of information thrown at you by various campaigns. Campaign websites and materials are usually the best places to look for a candidate’s views on how they plan to improve our country, but let’s face it: Often their website as just filled with fluffy talking points and feel-good messages. (To save you time, here is a link to the two main parties’ Presidential Candidates’ sites: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton)

For candidates who have previously held office, a great place to look is at their voting history. See how they have voted on the important issues in the past; see if they put the proverbial money (vote) where their mouth is.

I also recommend using non-partisan sites, such as PolitiFact, to try and get an unbiased, non-canned answers to questions on candidates’ views.

Pro Tip: Many organizations (charitable, non-profits, interest-based) endorse candidates up and down the ballot. Be sure to check in with the organizations you support (ex. The National Rifle Association, state Union organizations) to see which candidates they recommend.

Unfortunately, neither candidate has brought Seniors’ and Retirees’ issues to the forefront so far this election cycle, to the level we’ve seen in previous years. Attention has been placed on many other issues – from terrorism to gun ownership to immigration – and many seniors feel that their needs have been overlooked.

“How do they expect seniors to afford the rising drug costs? Prescription costs are just horrible,” said Susan from Florida. She’s not far off the mark: recently, drug manufacturer, Mylan, raised the price of the lifesaving medication, Epi Pen, astronomically. Used as a rescue drug for people suffering from severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis for people of all ages, the public outcry over Epi Pen’s new increased price has been loud. But have the candidates heard it?

“This is just one example of the shocking increases in drug costs I see all the time,” said Bill, a Medicare beneficiary who takes several daily medications. “I have friends who have skipped doses of important drugs because they simply cannot afford them.” Many American have called for elected officials to require caps on drug manufacturers’ profits and to end incentives for increasing company earnings. Some industry experts are accusing Mylan, who makes Epi Pen, of blurring its hunger for profits with its goal of providing medication. (Mylan has denied that any of their incentives are driven by one medication)

But many seniors wonder: why haven’t politicians done something to prevent skyrocketing drug costs from happening? To date, the issue of drug costs has not been heavily discussed by Clinton or Trump, although many seniors desire some action to be taken. “How can they expect us to keep up? Between Social Security benefits being taxed to increases in health care, I can’t imagine how my family will make ends meet,” said Susan.

Since the candidates aren’t making seniors’ issues a highlight of their campaigns, we must take it upon ourselves to ask them the tough questions. Each year, we see changes in Medicare premiums, yet little to no increase in Social Security benefits. And with over 10,000 people ageing in to Medicare each day, some worry this affordable health care bubble is going to bust.

While there’s sure to be more discussion about Medicare and other issues affecting seniors as the elections near, it’s never too early to begin researching these questions and asking all candidates – from the Presidential to the State Senate candidates – their views on these important topics:

1) What do the candidates stand in their views on the Medicare system? How do they propose to improve it?

To give you a short history lesson, Medicare was passed into law in 1965 and began administration of benefits in 1966. Many of us have waited for the Big Day: our 65th birthday, when we would become eligible for the greatest health care our country has had. But like with any system that provides services to over 50 million people, Medicare has had its criticisms.

While his campaign website only has one mention of Medicare, Donald Trump would like to allow veterans to use their VA card at any Medicare doctor (as opposed to only at the VA currently), which would obviously provide more convenience for veterans. In public appearances, Trump has proposed making Medicare more efficient by cutting down on fraud and abuse.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign proposes reducing the Medicare-eligibility age to 55 (people younger than 65 would have to pay), bringing Medicare to millions more Americans 10 years sooner than current standards. She also opposes privatizing Medicare and believes shifting seniors into private plans would greatly increase healthcare costs.

2) What are the candidates’ views on Obamacare and insurance for people not covered by Medicare?

Let’s cut to the chase: The Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) allowed millions of previously uninsured individuals to get health insurance. Policies like allowing kids to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26 and the elimination the exclusion of preexisting conditions have no doubt resulted in the number of insured people to go up significantly. But critics ask: at what cost?

The candidates from the two main political parties typically have vastly different views on whether Obamacare should be kept and improved upon (and even expanded through Medicaid at the state-level) or if it should be completely scrapped to ensure the health insurance industry doesn’t go bankrupt (as many Obamacare critics predict).

According to her own campaign website, Hillary Clinton proposes expansions to the Affordable Care Act and supports reducing prescription drug and other out of pocket costs. She has promised to keep, yet improve, the current system and also supports states expanding their Medicaid programs.

On the contrary, Donald Trump’s campaign website proposes completely repealing the Obamacare law but proposes allowing drug providers (both domestic and foreign) that offer safe drugs into our market. He also believes that insurance premium costs should be tax deductible.

3) What are their views on Social Security?

Passed into law in 1935, the Social Security Act has saved countless Americans from utter poverty during their Golden Years. Due to the exponential increase in population since President Roosevelt passed the law generations ago, many are skeptical of how long the Social Security program will last under its current funding system.

Donald Trump has stated that he believes wealthy Americans like him should forfeit their Social Security benefits and claims he has no plans to reduce benefits for seniors. He has also stated publically that Republicans cannot win elections by proposing changes to Social Security and Medicare, but has not elaborated on his plans to find the programs. (Mr. Trump has no mention of Social Security on his official campaign website)

Hillary Clinton has accused Trump and the Republican Party of trying to privatize Social Security and promises to fight attempts to invest seniors’ benefits in the stock market, feeling this is too risky. She also opposes reducing the annual cost-of-living adjustments so many retirees rely on each year. She proposes raising the taxable income for the wealthy, so more funds are being distributed into Social Security, in order to ensure it lasts for generations to come.

4) Do you support initiatives to make supplemental insurance, such as Long Term Care plans, more accessible?

Another issue facing seniors is the cost of long term care. Gone are the days of affordable plans which would provide coverage for home health care, nursing homes, and more. Fewer and fewer insurance carriers offer long term care, and those that do have outpriced most people from being able to afford a plan.

Furthermore, long term care insurance applicants must go through medical underwriting in order to be approved for a policy. Medical underwriting consists of health questions asked by an insurance professional, and oftentimes, the “look back” period for medical underwriting can be as long as 10 year (meaning if you suffered from a specific illness within the past 10 years, it could exclude you from being approved, or raise your rate).

Although the candidates have not discussed the costs of Long Term Card and its associated issues, both for the person needing care and for their support system. However this is a topic many seniors think about!

These are just the tip of the iceberg! A few other topics that may be of interest to seniors includes:

  • Poverty among seniors, including the overwhelmingly high costs of housing, meals, and healthcare,
  • Issues affecting minority populations (ex. women, African Americans) which are a growing part of the senior population, and
  • The countless issues affecting our children and grandchildren (ex. college tuition, the cost of childcare, taxes)

Pro Tip: Did you know that in most states, you can vote from your own home? Contact your local Supervisor of Elections office to request an absentee ballot. Voting from home allows you to vote before Election Day and to take your time while completing your ballot!

While this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of all of the complex issues affecting us, it’s important Seniors educate ourselves before blindly casting a vote for the Leader of the Free World. More importantly, yet admittedly harder to do, we must take the time to research all candidates appearing on our ballots. After all, the President doesn’t make all the laws that impact us!

Since we have readers on this Blog from all across the nation, we cannot cover every candidate’s views on the issues. But I urge you to meet with the candidates who will appear on your Primary and General Election ballots and ask them these questions.

You’ll be glad you took a few minutes to get to know your could-be representatives better. I know I’m glad I’ve done my research!

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