The contest for New York’s 2nd Congressional District is expected to be tight this year, as Andrew Garbarino (R), an assemblyman in New York's 7th Assembly District, squares off against Jackie Gordon (D), a former guidance counselor and member of the town council in Babylon, New York.
To understand how they plan to protect Social Security and Medicare, stimulate the economy, lower prescription drug prices and ensure that Americans have access to affordable long-term care, AARP New York asked each candidate to answer five key questions in 60-second videos. Here are their responses, with transcripts:
1. Social Security is a self-financed, off-budget program that half of all seniors rely on for more than 50 percent of their income. If elected, how will you ensure that current and future Social Security benefits are not cut as part of deficit reduction?
Garbarino: As a member of Congress, I would not support a plan that does anything but preserve benefits in Social Security that are being received by seniors. We need to honor the commitment we made to those who have paid into the system and make sure they get their investment back when they retire. In order to ensure that vital programs like Social Security are around for future generations, we must also be honest about the fiscal dilemmas facing the fund. I believe we can comprehensively reform the structural issues impacting Social Security benefits by working together in a bipartisan manner to ensure our fellow citizens continue to receive their hard-earned benefits.
Gordon: Social Security and Medicare are programs that Americans have bought into with their hard-earned money. They’re not entitlements. I stand with America’s seniors who believe we need to protect and preserve these programs above all else. Time and again, big corporations have received tax breaks at the expense of hard-working middle class families and seniors here on Long Island. The wealthiest Americans and corporations need to pay their fair share so that programs like Social Security and Medicare remain solvent. I also do not believe in increasing the retirement age. Americans work hard for the promise of Social Security and Medicare and shouldn’t have to wait any longer than promised.
2. On average, health care already accounts for $1 out of every $6 spent by seniors. If elected, how will you protect Medicare from benefit cuts, lower health care costs and ensure seniors continue receiving the affordable care they have earned?
Gordon: Making health care more affordable is the No. 1 reason why I’m running for Congress. For far too long, Long Island families have been crippled by health care costs and the price of prescription drugs. I’m ready to work together with Democrats and Republicans on real solutions to rein in costs for the future. For example, we must allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies to bring down the costs of prescription drugs for everyone. I’m deeply concerned by plans that would roll back the progress that we’ve already made by privatizing Medicare. Turning Medicare into vouchers doesn’t save money. It just shifts the cost burden onto our seniors, and I just won’t stand for that.
Garbarino: We must control the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs. Hard-working Long Islanders must be treated fairly when it comes to their health. I support legislation that would cap the amount of out-of-pocket money Medicare recipients would have to spend on annual prescription costs. I’d also support allowing Medicare recipients to get the best possible price for prescription drugs, whether by allowing the head of Medicare to directly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for a discount or to take a discount that has already been negotiated by an insurance company. I would also support increased funding so newer and better drugs could be developed. As more drugs come online, this increased competition would help lower prices.
3. Unemployment during the coronavirus crisis reached the highest levels since the Great Depression, and older Americans have been disproportionately affected. If elected, how will you help Americans over the age of 50 recover economically from the effects of the coronavirus?
Gordon: If elected to Congress, I will support comprehensive coronavirus economic relief legislation. This can include but [is] not limited to ensuring provisions are in place to put money directly in the pockets of seniors here on Long Island — increasing access to small business loans and funding for caregivers and [for] other life-sustaining health care needs. We cannot ignore the rising costs of prescription drugs and other health care costs not covered by Medicare.
Andrew Garbarino did not provide a response to this question.
4. Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world. If elected, how will you cut prescription drug prices for all Americans?
Gordon: As a single, working mom, I understand the burden of paying for prescription drugs, because I’ve faced it myself. Many of our seniors living on fixed income can’t afford the lifesaving medications they need and are being forced to ration medication or skip it altogether. We need to lower prescription drug costs through innovative measures like allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies. No one should have to choose between buying lifesaving medications and paying for bills. Health care costs are too high for far too many Americans, and ensuring that prescription drugs are more affordable is a major way we can lower health care costs.
Garbarino: Congress should prioritize keeping the promises they made to seniors years ago. It’s time for Congress to get back to work for our seniors and come to a bipartisan agreement on lowering prescription drug costs for seniors that can pass both chambers and be signed by the president. In order to address the major issues facing our seniors, including Social Security and Medicare reform, we need to come together as a Congress and pass legislation in a way that keeps the promises we made to our seniors.
5. COVID-19 has caused death and suffering for too many older Americans who require long-term care. If elected, how will you make sure seniors can access safe and affordable long-term care at home and in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?
Garbarino: Making a decision to send a loved one to a long-term care facility or keeping them at home is a difficult one. While an assemblyman, we created the CDPAP [Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program], which allowed seniors to hire family members to act as caretakers and to be paid by Medicaid. This allowed many seniors to stay at home instead of being put into a nursing home. I would like to take this program and expand it federally. If a senior wants to stay at home, they should be allowed to, and this CDPAP program would do that. Specifically with COVID-19, New York state returned sick patients to nursing homes, which in turn got other residents sick. As a member of the State Assembly Committee on Health, I questioned the administration about this action. This mistake should never happen again. As a member of Congress, I would push for CDC guidelines on nursing homes so states can never again make up their own rules and put elderly patients at risk. Guidelines should include requiring enough PPE [personal protective equipment] and making sure family members can still see their loved ones, even if it’s only virtually.
Gordon: COVID-19 devastated seniors and nursing homes in our Long Island community, especially our veteran population. Additionally, many Americans struggle with the massive expenses of later life care and do not have long-term care insurance. And the cost of a nursing home, assisted living or in-home care is not covered by Medicare. By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be a senior. As this demographic grows, so will the need for long-term care. Quality health care isn’t a privilege. Nobody should worry that one unexpected medical bill could threaten their future.
AARP is committed to ensuring voters have the information they need to cast their ballot this year. That is why we are publishing the AARP Asks the Candidates voter guide series, so candidates can share their plans on issues important to 50-plus voters.
AARP has a proud 34-year history of non-partisan voter engagement and does not endorse or oppose candidates or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.
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