Washington voters concerned about health care, retirement, economic and consumer protection issues affecting older people face an important choice in the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election. It pits Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, against former congressman Jay Inslee, a Democrat.
"Washington has been incredibly successful in designing long-term care services to keep people in their own homes," said Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director for AARP Washington. "We need the next governor to ensure that we continue in that direction, not drive people back to institutions through budget cuts."
AARP Washington has published a voters' guide featuring the two candidates' responses to questions about long-term care, budget issues, financial exploitation of seniors and retirement security.
In interviews with the AARP Bulletin, the two candidates said they would maintain Washington's well-respected home- and community-based long-term care programs. They also said they would provide more coordinated health care for poorer and sicker older people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. And both indicated they would try to restore long-term care funding cuts if possible.
But Inslee criticized McKenna for joining the lawsuit to overturn the federal health care law, which encourages more coordinated care and closes the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut hole." McKenna said he opposes only the law's requirement for everyone to buy health insurance. The law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Medicaid, the federal-state program that pays for long-term care and health care for the poor, the candidates disagreed over a national Republican proposal to cap federal funding and turn it over to the states as block grants. McKenna said it would give states an incentive to better control Medicaid costs. "Our state should be rewarded for effectively managing Medicaid expenditures." Inslee called it "a disguised attempt to reduce support for seniors."
AARP wants to preserve Medicaid as a right for older people who qualify based on disabilities or income.
On budget policy, AARP favors generating new state revenue through sales tax reform so the state can adequately fund public education without cutting safety-net programs for older people. Neither candidate supports tax increases, though both are open to ending some tax loopholes for business. Instead of tax hikes, each hopes to increase revenues through cost-saving government reforms and economic development policies that expand the economy.