By Hollie Deese
On Nov. 6, Tennessee voters will choose a new U.S. senator in the race between former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), 74, and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), 66.
Issues such as Social Security, Medicare, prescription drug costs and Medicaid will become even more critical as the state’s demographics skew older, said AARP Tennessee Director Rebecca Kelly.
“By 2030 our 65-plus population will double. These are complex, difficult issues, but we must address them before the population shifts.”
It has been hard to determine where the candidates stand on issues important to older voters, said Kelly. AARP asked Bredesen and Blackburn to clarify their
Bredesen: “I am fully committed to preserving Social Security. It is one of the most successful government programs in history. We should strengthen it, not fool with its design.”
Blackburn: “Social Security is undoubtedly an earned benefit. People who have paid into the system deserve to get what they expect back. If we make responsible reforms now, we can ensure that Social Security is solvent for everyone.”
Bredesen: “I am committed to preserving it, but recognize that it has flaws. Costs continue to escalate, but there are straightforward ways to manage them that in no way diminish the quality or convenience of care. I have broad experience in this area, in both private and public sectors, and believe I can be of considerable help in the Senate.”
Blackburn: “We have to act to save benefits, but we should not touch the benefits of those already receiving them or close to receiving them. We should expand Medicare Advantage for seniors because it provides more choice and allows them to benefit from health savings accounts.”
Bredesen: “High drug costs arise from the lack of a central negotiating mechanism that other countries use and the excessive influence that Big Pharma has over the Congress. There are opportunities to contain these costs, helping tens of millions of Americans.”
Blackburn: “We need to continue examining the drug supply chain to get prices under control and expand choice for consumers. I worked on bipartisan legislation to allow hearing aids to be
purchased over the counter, which would cut the cost down from a few thousand dollars to a couple of hundred. We must continue to look for innovative solutions.”
Bredesen: “Medicaid has become a health care lifeboat for many Americans. A strong and humane Medicaid system should remain an essential part of the social safety net in America. Any attempt to replace it with block grants should be looked on with a very critical eye.”
Blackburn: “We must continue to conduct oversight to ensure that Medicaid operates effectively. The program must increase the options it provides and allow its participants choice, so they have a greater say in their own health care.”
For more information on the candidates’ positions and other key issues, go to the voters guide at aarp.org/vote.
Hollie Deese is a writer living in Gallatin, TN.