By Cristina Rouvalis
In the Nov. 6 election for governor, incumbent Tom Wolf (D), 69, and former state Sen. Scott Wagner (R), 63, are campaigning on markedly different approaches to issues affecting older people—health care, retirement savings plans, property taxes and Medicaid.
Wolf points to his success launching Community HealthChoices, a managed-care program for long-term Medicaid recipients. Thanks to this effort, 50,000 older people have been able to stay in their homes longer and avoid institutions.
Wolf also signed the CARE Act, which requires hospitals to give caregivers instructions on medical tasks when a patient is discharged.
Wagner said the state needs to recruit more caretakers for programs designed to keep older people in their homes longer.
“We have a skilled-labor crisis,” he said, citing his experience trying to find in-home care for his aging parents.
Wagner said he would task the Department of Aging with the job of overseeing long-term care providers. Those with a positive record would then be eligible for long-term funding.
Both candidates stressed the need for statewide internet access so that everyone, especially those in rural areas, may speak with a doctor via video conference.
Savings and taxes
About 2.1 million state residents don’t have access to an employer workplace savings plan with automatic payroll deductions.
Wolf supports legislation such as House Bill 465, which would require employers who do not have a retirement plan to offer their workers enrollment in a state-run retirement savings plan that operates like a 401(k). Under this plan, the state treasury would manage payroll deduction accounts.
Wagner has a different idea to increase retirement savings—abolish the school property tax.
“Our seniors can no longer bear the burden of high property taxes and the endless threat of increases they are faced with,” said Andrew Romeo, Wagner’s campaign spokesman.
To make up for the lost revenue, Wagner backs legislation that would raise the personal income and sales taxes.
Wolf said he is in favor of tax reform and would work with the legislature to eliminate property taxes and close the “Delaware loophole” in which businesses with headquarters elsewhere avoid paying taxes on their operations in Pennsylvania.
“Seniors and the middle class pay too much in taxes because too many corporations, wealthy people and oil and gas companies pay too little,” Wolf said.
Wolf expanded Medicaid, raising the income limits to provide health care to an additional 720,000 residents, including many in the 50-to-64 age bracket.
Wagner, who has spoken out against Medicaid expansion, would instead apply for a federal waiver, using Medicaid funds to find new health care approaches.
AARP encourages everyone to vote and review the recently redrawn electoral map. Some districts have changed substantially since the last election. AARP is nonpartisan and does not favor candidates. For more voting information, go to aarp.org/vote.
Cristina Rouvalis is a writer living in Pittsburgh.