By Rick Haglund
U.S. Senate candidates Terri Lynn Land and Gary Peters agree on preserving Social Security and Medicare but sharply disagree on maintaining the Affordable Care Act.
Peters, a Democrat who voted for the act in 2010 as a Detroit-area congressman, would keep it. Land, a Republican from West Michigan, favors repealing it.
The two candidates are seeking to fill the seat of Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who is retiring after 36 years.
Land, 56, is a former clerk of Kent County and served as Michigan’s secretary of state from 2003 through 2010.
Peters, 55, has represented Michigan’s 14th Congressional District, including portions of Detroit and several of its suburbs, since 2009. He is a former Michigan state senator and lottery commissioner.
Land responded to questions about her positions on issues important to voters over 50 in writing. Peters responded to those questions in a telephone interview.
“We certainly need the Affordable Care Act [ACA] to continue because everyone must have access to quality health care that the act provides,” Peters said. Like any complex legislation, the ACA will need to be regularly tweaked, he said.
Land said she would vote to repeal the act, also known as Obamacare, because it has forced some people to buy more costly health insurance plans than they had before.
She said she favors patient-focused reforms, including allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and making health insurance plans portable for workers who frequently change jobs.
Land said that she favors the current system of financing Social Security and that any changes to its funding should take place within the system and not as part of an overall federal budget deal.
“Social Security must be there for current seniors and future generations of senior citizens,” she said.
Peters agrees, saying he would be “strongly opposed” to any attempts to shrink benefits or boost Social Security’s eligibility age.
The key to ensuring solvency for Social Security, Peters said, is raising middle-class incomes, which would generate more Social Security tax revenue.
Land said Medicare “for current beneficiaries must be protected from cuts,” but added that the program faces “serious long-term challenges” as the large boomer generation retires. She said she would “support reforms that enjoy bipartisan support.”
Referring to a 2012 report by the Congressional Budget Office that said repealing the ACA would boost Medicare funding over 10 years, Land said repeal of the law would be a “first step” in protecting Medicare.
Peters, citing the 2013 Medicare Trustees report, noted that cost-saving measures in the ACA are improving the long-term financial outlook for Medicare.
On age discrimination, Peters said employers need to realize that it is “bad business” to discriminate against older workers, who bring talent, experience and good judgment to the workplace.
Land said the federal age discrimination law should be “appropriately enforced” and that “older workers should be able to seek relief in court, if necessary.”
AARP does not endorse candidates, contribute to campaigns or favor political parties.
For more information on the Senate and congressional candidates’ positions on key issues, see the AARP voter guide at aarp.org/yourvote.
Haglund is a writer living in Birmingham, Mich.