Seniors Decide: What’s Important in the Presidential Election?

Q. Thank you for your recent articles about where candidates stand on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits. In reading them, and in watching the debates on TV, I am still trying to figure out other critical issues seniors and baby boomers are evaluating when voting for our next president, and why I haven’t heard much from any candidate about long-term care.
Unfortunately, I missed Wednesday’s Seniors Decide 2016 forum at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus. Are you aware of any takeaways or other research that could help clarify issues that are unique to seniors (including long-term care), and what I should be focusing on before going to the primary vote on March 1?
A.As you mentioned, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) sponsored “Seniors Decide 2016” this past Wednesday. The event was a live forum that was developed to provide a fair and unbiased platform for sharing the views of candidates for President of the United States on policies and programs affecting older Americans. Seniors were encouraged to submit questions via video, social media posts, and on

Although the LCAO sent invitations to every presidential candidate and organizations such as the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) heavily promoted the event, all of the other campaigns besides Sanders’ and Kasich’s declined to participate. Sen. Bernie Sanders skyped into the event live, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich sent former Congressman, Tom Davis, to the forum in his place. This is disappointing, as older voters comprise about one quarter of the voting population in 2016, and according to Forbes, “they currently remain up for grabs and have not been actively pursued.”

Sanders spoke about his position on aging-in-place, and voiced support for American seniors who long to age in their own homes. “Clearly we should be doing everything that we can to provide resources to keep people in their own homes,” Sanders said. He also stated that “(i)ssues pertaining to seniors, and to disabled people, haven’t gotten the media attention that they should. That’s been one of his biggest disappointments in this campaign.” According to Sanders, “At the end of the day, we judge a nation based on how we treat our most vulnerable,” Sanders said. “Truth is, we are not doing well by our seniors or by our children.”

Meanwhile, when questioned about the Ohio governor’s positions on senior-related issues, Davis hinted that Kasich may be amenable to changing the Medicare program to support long-term care supports and services. “He did that in Ohio,” Davis explained.

Seniors Speak Out on Issues of Importance
Due to the lack of participation at the LCAO event, seniors were unable to ask all the candidates their burning questions on important issues. However, in a Next Avenue survey conducted last month, 3,400 seniors revealed some of their major concerns. And, 67% of them said issues of aging, caregiving,and long-term care will be a factor in how they vote in the presidential election.

The survey asked respondents (all over age 50) to rank major issues based on their importance to them. The following are some of the findings:

• Healthcare and financial security are most important:Among issues directly related to aging, survey participants were most concerned about health care and financial security.

• When asked to choose their top three concerns from a longer list that included items such as funding for Alzheimer’s research, support for family caregivers and fighting ageismthe largest numbers of respondents chose:

Providing financial support for retired people (such as Social Security): 63%
Providing health care insurance for older people (such as Medicare): 54%
Making health care affordable for older Americans: 44%
• Quality of life is a major concern: Survey respondents showed that with regard to aging, they worry most about their personal economy and a secure quality of life.

• Long-term care costs: Survey respondents recognized long-term care costs as a risk that can undermine personal financial security. They ranked it fourth-highest on the list of 12 aging-related concerns, just after their top three concerns about Social Security, Medicare, and affordable health care.

• Mandating long-term care insurance is an unpopular solution: Mandating the purchase of private long-term care insurance was notably unpopular as a solution. It was opposed by 62% of survey respondents.

• The future of Social Security: Without Social Security, 48% of women would have income below the federal poverty line. With Social Security, only 11% of women are in poverty. It is also the largest children’s benefits program in the nation, so its future has intergenerational consequences. The future of Medicare will also be a critical issue in the first term of a new president.
For more details on where candidates stand on issues of importance for seniors, please read “Where Presidential Candidates Stand on Senior Issues,” which discusses candidate’s views on Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, and Part 2: Where Presidential Candidates Stand on Medicaid and Veterans Issues.
The Cost of Long-Term Care is “America’s Denial Issue”
As you mentioned, all candidates to date have been pretty silent on the largest unfunded liability facing the boomer generation: the cost of long-term care.
As 78 million baby boomers age – the oldest are now entering their 70s – with many of them caring for family members or adding to the population that needs care, you would think pressure would grow on politicians to speak out about long-term care solutions. However, long-term care remains largely invisible in the presidential debates.

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that when it comes to long-term care, a “major societal challenge looms without a policy roadmap to guide it.” A reason why the issue of long-term care has been mostly avoided by candidates could be because most Americans don’t anticipate needing long-term care – until they actually need it. And when that happens, they experience sticker shock, as nursing home care now costs, on average, $80,300 per year for a semi-private room. In the DC metro area, the cost is around $12,000-$14,000 a month!

“Candidates are crazy not to mention it (long-term care) because it is what most families are dealing with,” says veteran ABC News and NPR political commentator Cokie Roberts. “Fully a third of households in America are taking care of an elderly or disabled member.”

So, what happens if you can’t afford $144,000- $196,000 a year for a nursing home? You can plan for long-term care and prepare for the catastrophic costs of nursing homes, and we can help. The Medicaid program is our country’s largest health and long-term care insurer, covering one in six Americans, including two-thirds of nursing home residents and one in five persons under 65 with chronic disabilities. Do you have a loved one who is in a nursing home or nearing the need for nursing home care? Or are you simply looking to plan ahead in the event nursing home care is needed in the future? Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Long-Term Care Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Long-Term Care Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Long-Term Care Planning: 301-519-8041
DC Long-Term Care Planning: 202-587-2797
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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