By Tim Poor
In a close U.S. Senate race getting national attention, two-term Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), 65, is going up against state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), 38, on Nov. 6. AARP asked the candidates for their views on key issues for 50-plus voters. AARP is nonpartisan and doesn’t recommend candidates.
How would you improve service for Social Security recipients?
McCaskill: We should be stressing customer service. Unfortunately, the current administration has advocated cutting services, despite the fact that we have more people coming into the system. They keep trying to do more with less, and seniors get left holding the bag.
Hawley: Decades ago, the government made a commitment to American citizens that no senior would retire into poverty. This is a promise we can keep by addressing staffing shortages and making sure Social Security remains solvent.
Are you committed to annual cost-of-living adjustments to Medicare or Social Security?
McCaskill: I am a cosponsor of Senate Bill 1600, which would add greater weight to medical costs in calculating cost-of-living adjustments. The 20 most-prescribed drugs on Medicare have gone up 10 times the rate of inflation.
Hawley: Whatever formula we choose should reflect the real costs that seniors face. Seniors spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, the cost of which is rising faster than inflation in other areas.
Would you raise the age for full retirement benefits?
McCaskill: Absolutely not. I think there are other ways to get at this. If you really need your benefits, you should get them.
Hawley: Since 1983, the retirement age has been increased incrementally on a slow schedule to ensure current beneficiaries receive what they earned and shore up the program for the future. We should continue along this schedule, but only if absolutely necessary.
Do you support raising the cap on payroll taxes for Social Security? Workers pay into the program only for the first $128,400 earned in 2018.
McCaskill: I do. I supported legislation that would raise the cap to $250,000, which would get our solvency to the year 2080 without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.
Hawley: A better idea is to reduce benefits for high-income earners and introduce means testing. Reducing benefits for those whose security in retirement is assured through private investment and large pensions helps preserve the program for those who truly need it.
Do you favor allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of prescription drugs?
McCaskill: Absolutely. It is outrageous that the pharmaceutical industry has a vise grip on Washington. If Democrats take the Senate, this will be one of the first things we do. I hear about it everywhere I go. Something has to be done.
Hawley: The rising cost of prescription drugs is a major driver of soaring health care costs in America. It’s time we push back against the big pharmaceutical companies to lower costs for beneficiaries. This alone won’t solve the problem of health care costs, but it’s a start.
Tim Poor is a writer living in Clayton, Missouri.