Issue Position: Seniors
Seniors are already a growing part of Minnesota's populationand they will become even more so as the Baby Boom generation retires. Minnesota already has the second longest life expectancy of any state in the country.
America's seniors depend on Social Security and Medicare as a safety net and as an opportunity to continue leading their lives with dignity and security.
For generations, Social Security has been a stable and secure retirement guarantee for all Americans. It is our nation's most successful domestic program, providing an essential safety net and ensuring a decent retirement for Americans who've worked hard their whole lives. That's why I oppose privatization schemes that would transform Social Security from a guarantee into a gamble, where the big financial companies on Wall Street would be the only sure winners.
I support a prescription drug benefit for seniors as part of Medicare. But the Part D program remains needlessly complex and confusing-with dozens of insurance companies, hundreds of different plans, and countless benefit structures, pricing tiers and drug formularies. Not to mention the dreaded "doughnut hole," which each year eats a deep hole in the wallets and pocketbooks of millions of seniors. My own mother, a retired second grade teacher, suggests that Medicare Part D got the grade it deserved!
By far the most serious flaw in Medicare Part D is the "non-interference" clause that expressly prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower prices from pharmaceutical companies. This prohibition has imposed substantial, and unnecessary, costs on America's taxpayers and seniors, who are paying excessive prices for prescription drugs. By banning the government from negotiating discounts, Congress saddled seniors with inflated prices for their medications, while handing a huge financial windfall to the pharmaceutical industry. I am fighting to change that so our seniors can have access to their medicines at the lowest possible prices.
As the population of seniors continues to increase, the need for elder care will also grow. A new generation of family members will assume the role of caregiver for their parents by tending to increasingly complicated health and long-term care needs. Minnesota's population over the age of 85 is expected to nearly double between 2000 and 2030. Many rural areas in Minnesota already face this issue because they have larger senior populations. But in the years ahead, suburban counties are likely to be at the center of the aging boom.
I believe we need to make sure that seniors and their adult children have resources to prepare for their long-term care. In particular, seniors and caregivers need to be educated about the types of available services and how to access these programs. We need to be doing more to help care givers coordinate the care they need. We also need to use grant money for pilot programs to help develop best practices at the local level, so that we can continue to support the nation's care givers.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, these are my priorities on behalf of seniors:
* Protect the long-term integrity of Social Security and oppose risky schemes that would turn the guarantee of a secure retirement into a gamble. It would be irresponsible to privatize Social Security, diverting billions of dollars and putting it at risk in the stock market while also incurring trillions of dollars in transition costs. Social Security has become a fundamental part of our nation's social and economic fabric. It has provided a crucial safety net and it ensures that all Americans can retire with dignity and security. We must look ahead to make Social Security more secure for the long term, and we cannot allow this essential safety net to fray.
* Assist families in caring for seniors. Almost 10 million seniors today need some type of long-term care. While nursing homes and paid care provide support to our elderly in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal care givers - more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. Today we are seeing a new phenomenon called the "sandwich generation" - people my age who are taking care of their aging parents, while they are also raising young children. On the Joint Economic Committee, I have taken the lead on a critical issue facing families across America and Minnesotahow to care for our nation's aging population. Congress needs to address the financial impact and options that families have in caring for our nation's elderly. I am committed to easing the burdens facing family caregivers. I support a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member and the expansion of programs, like the National Family Caregivers Support Program that provides education, guidance and support to people taking care of loved ones with long-term care needs.
* Empower Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of seniors. When the Part D program was written into law, the army of lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry triumphed over seniors in the halls of Congress when they secured a prohibition against government negotiation for lower prices. I am fighting to change that so Medicare can negotiate the best prices for our seniors.
* Allow the reimportation of safe, less expensive prescription medicines from Canada. American seniors pay inflated prices for their prescription drugs. Just to the north, Canadians enjoy inexpensive and safe prescription drugs. I am fighting for a system that will allow the reimportation of safe, FDA-approved medications from Canada.
* Stop identity thieves from preying on seniors. Unfortunately, identity theft hits seniors especially hard, resulting in a loss of privacy that can lead to financial hardship. Today, perpetrators of fraud have found new ways to alter their identities to either harm or steal the personal and financial information of innocent victims. Using widely-available software, these criminals can alter their caller IDs so that the recipient of the call believes the caller is somebody else. Con artists incorporate the use of false caller IDs in their fraudulent schemes to steal the identities and ultimately the hard-earned money of countless numbers of Americans, especially the elderly. I am fighting to penalize those who misrepresent their caller IDs to steal the identities or otherwise harm the recipients of these fraudulent calls.