By Effie Dawson
When David Conway goes to the polls Nov. 6, he will vote for candidates committed to controlling health care costs.
Conway, 64, of Columbia, retired last year after 42 years selling medical devices, and now volunteers with AARP on legislative issues. His career made him keenly aware of how expensive health care is and convinced him that affordable health care is at risk in Washington.
Conway’s priorities mirror those of more than 3,400 state residents 50 and older who responded to a recent AARP Maryland survey. They identified their top three issues as controlling health care costs (91 percent), curbing prescription costs (77 percent) and preparing for an aging Maryland (49 percent).
Older voters turn out. In the 2014 midterms in Maryland, 62 percent of voters were 50-plus.
Marylanders will select a governor, choosing from incumbent Larry Hogan (R), 62, and former NAACP president Ben Jealous (D), 45; a U.S. senator; and all eight U.S. House members. General Assembly seats and local offices are also on the ballot.
“These are crucial elections,” said Jim Campbell, 71, of Baltimore, AARP Maryland’s volunteer state president. He served 24 years in the House of Delegates.
Campbell worries about the future of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, all programs elected officials have mentioned as targets for budget cuts. He also opposes work requirements proposed as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“This could lead to many older Americans losing an important nutritional benefit,” he said. “The 50-plus population already has challenges finding employment.”
Rising prescription costs continue to be a big issue for older people. Name-brand and specialty drug prices are rising at a faster pace than other health care spending, and about 10 times greater than the rate of inflation.
Aging in place
Another top issue in the survey was preparing Maryland for an aging population. “We want people to stay active and healthy longer,” said Hank Greenberg, AARP state director. “We want people to live comfortably in their homes and in their communities as they age.”
That means having good transportation, health care, housing, jobs and social opportunities such as volunteerism, he added.
Other priorities for over-50 voters include programs for veterans, improved internet in rural areas, consumer protection and education, Campbell said.
Voters need to speak up about issues that matter to them, Campbell said. “A lot of times people are intimidated by elected officials. They’re very easy to talk to and actually want to hear from voters.”
Greenberg said, “We would like voters asking the question of every candidate looking for a vote, ‘What are you going to do to control health care costs? What is your plan for curbing high prescription costs, and what will you do to prepare for an aging population?’ ”
How important is your vote? Some primaries were decided by very narrow margins. John Olszewski Jr. won the Baltimore County executive Democratic race by 17 votes out of 84,601 cast.
AARP is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. For more information on the issues, go to aarp.org/vote.
Visit elections.maryland.gov for information on early voting, polling locations and times.
Effie Dawson is a writer living in Arnold, Md.