What Older Voters are Focusing on in the Midterm Elections


Q. I’ve been voting since I was able to do so, which is more decades ago than I’d like to mention. After all, voting is a responsibility! I know that seniors like me care about a broad range of issues, not just those commonly associated with aging. Can you run through some of the issues that are most important to seniors for this midterm election, so I know what to focus on? Thanks so much!

A. For nearly 40 years, the turnout of senior voters has significantly outpaced that of younger Americans. In many cases, it’s because seniors such as you see voting as a civic responsibility. Kudos to you and others who get out and vote!

In the 2016 presidential election 71% of Americans over 65 voted, compared with 46% among 18- to 29-year-olds, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Although there has been increased energy among younger voters over the past couple of elections, people over 65 continue to show up at the polls far more than any other age group. And this election shouldn’t be any different. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in September found 73% of seniors have the highest level of interest in the midterms, the most of any group.

What’s Up for Grabs this Year

In this year’s midterm election, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for grabs, including 60 seats in which the incumbent is not seeking reelection. Of these seats, 41 are now held by Republicans and 19 by Democrats. And 35 Senate seats will also be in play. In the states, 36 governorships are up for election, and thousands of state legislature candidates will be on ballots coast to coast.

Issues that are Vital for Seniors

Older voters could be a decisive bloc in the midterm elections. Several polls suggest older voters are eager to send Washington a message on three issues that are vital to them: Medicare, prescription drug costs, and Social Security.

Most voters 50 and older seem unhappy with both parties in Congress. Here’s a look at what older voters are saying about Medicare, prescription drug prices, health insurance, and Social Security:

Medicare

A majority of older voters care deeply about strengthening Medicare and favor expanding the health program for Americans 65 and older:

• 97% of boomers and 95% of Gen Xers said in a September survey conducted by AARP and the Association of Young Americans that it’s important Medicare be there for them when they retire;
• 73% of boomers and 72% of Gen Xers in that survey said they think the government should do something “immediately” to strengthen Medicare for the future. As Medicare expert Marilyn Moon recently said on a media call with the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy: “Medicare is not out of control or in need of massive cuts, but it certainly has problems that need to be monitored and looked at over time.”
• 69% of registered likely voters over 50 surveyed by AARP in July said they support giving some people between the ages of 50 and 64 the option to buy health insurance through Medicare; 21% opposed this.
• 56% of registered likely voters over 50 told AARP that Medicare-for-All proposals should be part of the health care debate in Congress; 31% disagreed and 13% were unsure. Single payer, Medicare-for-All legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) is getting increased support among Democrats in Congress. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, however, opposes it because he believes Medicare-for-All would restrict consumer choice and be too expensive for the government.

Prescription Drug Prices and Health Care

Older voters are greatly concerned about high prescription drug costs and possible changes to the Affordable Care Act that could lead some of them to be turned down for health insurance or to pay more for it.

• 39% of voters 65-plus said prescription drugs should be the single top priority for candidates;
• 92% of registered likely voters over 50 surveyed by AARP said the candidates’ positions on lowering prescription drug costs are important to them; similarly, 93% said so about lowering health care costs in general.
• More than 90% of Americans age 65 and older favor letting Medicare directly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and permitting more generics to compete with higher cost brand-name manufacturers. Note that the government is the single largest purchaser of drugs, through Medicare;
• 66% of registered likely voters over 50 surveyed by AARP said letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices will help put Medicare on stable financial ground and save seniors money on the medications they need to stay healthy.
• 84% of registered likely voters over 50 surveyed by AARP said it is unfair to make people with pre-existing conditions pay more for their health insurance. Similarly, 83% opposed a proposal favored by some Republicans to let health insurers charge people over 50 up to five times more for health insurance than younger people; under current law, insurers can charge the older customers up to three times more.

Social Security

Social Security is arguably the most important issue for seniors and boomers. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 75% of voters between the ages of 50 and 64 and 78% of voters 65 and older list Social Security as a “very important” factor in how they will vote in the midterm election.

According to the Social Security Administration, 59% of seniors retiring in this country rely on Social Security as their sole source of income. With a majority of seniors using social security in this way, it is important that the program be a top concern for all politicians.

A few poll results regarding Social Security and older voters:

• 92% of registered likely voters over 50 told AARP that the candidates’ positions on strengthening and reforming Social Security are important to them;
• 95% of boomers and 89% of Gen Xers told AARP and the Association of Young Americans that it’s important that Social Security will be there for them when they retire. While 70% of boomers said they’re confident Social Security will be there when they retire, only 41% of Gen Xers thought it would be there for them;
• 70% of boomers and Gen Xers said they think the government should “immediately” do something to strengthen Social Security for the future.

For the current status of Social Security, view the 2018 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2018/.

Remember, please get out and vote (if you haven’t already) and tell your friends and neighbors, so your voice can be heard!

Plan for Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Have you planned for your future and for your loved ones? Regardless of the midterm election outcome or possible changes in the law, the need to plan in advance always remains, no matter your age. We have over 10 clients of our firm who are in their 40s, 50s, and early 60s, who are already in nursing homes. You never know when tragedy may strike. If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Estate Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning (or had your documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please don’t hesitate to call us as soon as possible for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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