Healthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say
Concerns over healthcare and retirement security will be top of mind for voters over 50 years old in the upcoming election, lawmakers said Tuesday.
“Every fiber of my being believes retirement security is the biggest issue over the next decade, maybe even longer,” Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) said during AARP's "America’s Most Reliable Voter" event, hosted by The Hill. “It’s more than just the retiree and their benefits, it’s also the cost of Medicare — being the primary driver of future debt — and how do we provide better healthcare and change the cost curve?”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate special committee on aging, explained that voters over the age of 50 always play a key role in elections, but in this particular presidential race, they “may be the vote that decides the election.” He pointed out that older voters were some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and that the virus has “amplified and greatly enhanced those concerns” regarding their health and financial future.
“We know that people across the board were losing health insurance before the pandemic [and] that number has gone a lot higher,” he said. “That affects people in this age category, as well, and there’s also some longer-term retirement financial security issues at play.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) further emphasized how “very real” the threat of lack of accessibility to comprehensive healthcare can be to older voters.
“Healthcare generally is very critical, but when we talk about whether or not we are going to have a real federal plan that gets our arms around the COVID crisis that has rapid testing, that gets a vaccine safely as soon as possible — I think for older people there’s a greater sense of urgency,” she said at Tuesday's event.
Stabenow, a ranking member on the Senate finance subcommittee on health care, expressed disappointment regarding Republican attempts to reduce access to healthcare via Affordable Care Act repeal and Medicare restraint, which could take away benefits like coverage of pre-existing conditions.
“I don’t know why it’s a partisan divide, healthcare. To me, healthcare is personal, not political,” she said. “Is it a right or privilege? Is it something all of us need and therefore should we be creating a system that’s cost efficient and comprehensive for people?”
Stabenow suggested lowering the age for Medicare qualification to 50 to bring down costs of the system in the long run and provide access for older voters who are not satisfied with their private insurance. Other lawmakers offered different solutions to concerns.
Schweikert, who is co-chair of the congressional telehealth caucus, told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that the pandemic offered an opportunity for services like telemedicine — which was shrouded in “skepticism” years before — to flourish. He emphasized that to many, telemedicine was “shockingly controversial” because it upended the traditional infrastructure of medical practice, but with its current implementation, advocates have found that “seniors love it.”
“Telemedicine ... when coupled with some of the new technology, could be a revolution in changing the price of healthcare and dramatically improving access for everyone, but particularly our seniors,” he said.
Schweikert also noted that healthcare and retirement security are inevitably intertwined and need to be addressed for the sake of older voters.
“They’re big, complicated things for a politician to talk about and absolutely necessary,” he said.