Election 2016 Roundup- Five Major Issues Affecting Seniors

In just a week from today, we’ll be casting our votes for the person who will lead this country for the next four years. If you’re still undecided because you are not entirely thrilled with any of the candidates this year, you can take one last good look at the issues instead of the person when making your decision. In fact, according to the New York Times, 82% of those undecided will vote for the candidate who is most aligned with them on the issues.

Let’s recap the top five issues affecting seniors, and examine once more where Clinton and Trump stand on the issues. This latest information includes stances taken during recent debates and interviews:

Issue #1 – 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 percent of voters 65 and older list Social Security as a “very important” factor in how they will vote in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Social Security Administration, 59 percent 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 any president.

AARP asked each of the candidates to share their position and plans for Social Security. Below is a summary of the candidates’ views on this very important issue:

Hillary Clinton:

• has pledged to guarantee “dignity in retirement” for future generations;
• has vowed to fight privatizing the social security system;
• opposes the reduction of annual cost-of-living adjustments; and
• opposes efforts by Republicans to raise the retirement age (currently set at 67);
• would like to expand social security to include women who are widows who chose to be stay-at-home-moms instead of joining the workforce and also for those who chose to stay out of the workforce caring for aging or ailing family members.

Donald Trump:

• has said that he believes the key to preserving social security and other programs which benefit seniors and boomers is with an economy is that “robust and growing”;
• has stated that the first step to achieving a more robust economy is to implement a more comprehensive tax-reform plan;
• has suggested repealing the Dodd-Frank and Affordable Care Acts to increase competition and lower costs to consumers;
• feels that a pro-growth agenda is necessary to protect and preserve this valuable program.

Issue #2 – Medicare

Right behind Social Security in importance to seniors and boomers is Medicare. According to information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the total number of Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. is at 55.5 million. The challenge each candidate faces with Medicare is finding a solution that will control future costs while avoiding benefit cuts.

According to the Motley Fool, “This is one of the few areas where the candidates agree, even when it comes to most of the ways they plan to fix it. The only major difference is that Donald Trump could face an uphill battle against the rest of the Republicans, who don’t feel as strongly about preserving Medicare as he does. Regardless, the fact that we have two presidential candidates who both feel strongly about the need to preserve Medicare could be a big win for America’s seniors.” Here are more details on their stances:

Hillary Clinton:

• has said that as with Social Security, she will do her best to protect Medicare for seniors and calls affordable healthcare a basic human right;
• is proposing to expand the Medicare program to include retirees starting at age 55;
• also wants to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by negotiating Medicare reimbursements with drug companies and by requiring drug companies to provide higher rebates in the low-income subsidy program.

Donald Trump:

• plans to save Medicare by creating economic growth, eliminating fraud and waste, and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
• While it’s unclear how much fraud and waste actually exists within Medicare, increased economic growth like Trump’s tax plan is intended to create would result in more tax revenue flowing into Medicare.
• has claimed that negotiating prescription drug prices could save up to $300 billion, although the magnitude of the savings has been disputed.

Issue #3: Healthcare Reform

When it comes to healthcare reform, both candidates emphasize improving the quality of health care and the performance of the health system. Each would like to see more transparency from doctors and hospitals about the prices they charge for their services. However, the candidates would take the nation down distinctly different paths on health care, as follows:

Hillary Clinton:

• In response to reports that insurance premiums would rise an average of 22 percent in 2017 under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Clinton campaign spokesperson Julie Wood released a statement offering Clinton’s continued support for the healthcare program on October 25, 2016.
• Clinton has been talking about mental health policy throughout her campaign, since hearing directly from American parents, students, veterans, nurses, and police officers about how these challenges keep them up at night. Her goal is that within her time in office, Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment.
• She proposes dedicating more resources to ensuring that people in poor neighborhoods and rural areas have access to primary care services.
• She proposes additional options such as a cap on prescription drug out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
• She offers a number of new proposals to provide help for families caring for older relatives or family members with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as people with drug or alcohol addiction.

Donald Trump:

• Has stated that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act (what Republicans call “Obamacare”), reduce barriers to the interstate sale of health insurance, institute a full tax deduction for insurance premium payments for individuals, make Health Saving Accounts inheritable, require price transparency, block-grant Medicaid to the states, and allow for more overseas drug providers through lowered regulatory barriers. Trump added that enforcing immigration laws could reduce healthcare costs.
• In an interview on September 15, 2016, Trump said that birth control “should not be done by prescription.”
• Suggested that he supported universal healthcare on September 27, 2015. “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now,” he said.

Issue #4 – Long-Term Care Costs

The availability and affordability of long-term care is another growing concern for the aging boomer population. Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 34 million Americans were faced with providing care to an adult age 50 or older because the person was unable to afford to pay for long-term care services from an agency. Here’s where the candidates stand:

Hillary Clinton:

• Supports increasing Social Security benefits for those who take time off from paying jobs to provide caregiving services to family members;
• Is proposing a new tax break for individuals caring for aging parents or grandparents, allowing them to deduct 20 percent of their caregiving expenses up to $6,000 annually.

Donald Trump:

• Has not laid out specific plans for combating the costs associated with long-term care, but has mentioned that the 2016 Republican Party platform makes mention of the importance of affordable homecare.

Issue #5 – Caregiving

About 34 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult 50 or older in 2014, according to a 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Half of those “informal” caregivers were caring for a parent or parent-in-law. And about one in five said caregiving created a financial strain on them. These are the views of the candidates on caregiving:

Hillary Clinton:

• Believes Americans should receive credit toward their Social Security benefits when they are out of the paid workforce because they are acting as caregivers.
• Announced last year that she would invest in the “caring economy,” as reported by the Associated Press.
• Favors a new tax break for individuals caring for aging parents or grandparents. Under the proposal, a family caregiver would be able to deduct 20% of caregiving expenses, up to a total of $6,000. That would result in a total tax savings of up to $1,200. The proposal would not apply to those taking care of a spouse.
• Favors greatly increasing the amount the federal government spends on its Lifespan Respite Care program, which provides money to states to give family caregivers a temporary break. It spent $2 million in 2015, according to CNN. Obama asked for $5 million for 2016, and Clinton proposes increasing funding to $10 million a year.

Donald Trump:

• Responded to a question about Alzheimer’s at a campaign event by saying the disease is “a total top priority for me… That’s something that we should be working on and we can get an answer.”
• Urged viewers to contribute to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America telethon in the past for its helpline, educational materials, hands-on care programs and “grants to families for respite care.”
• One passage of the 2016 Republican Party platform refers to “homecare:” It says: “Our aging population must have access to safe and affordable care. Because most seniors desire to age at home, we will make homecare a priority in public policy and will implement programs to protect against elder abuse.” As for taxes, the Republican platform says, “We will be mindful of the burdens on families with children and the impact on an aging population. We will seek simplicity and clarity so that every taxpayer can understand how much of their income is consumed by the federal government.”

To learn more about the presidential candidates’ views on these and other important issues, be sure to visit their campaign websites. And remember, please get out and vote (if you haven’t already) so your voice can be heard!

Have you planned for your future and for your loved ones? Regardless of the election outcome or possible changes in the law, the need to plan in advance remains. 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 an initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
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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.