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Medicare, Social Security Loom Large

Candidates for the U.S. Senate have widely differing views on providing benefits for future generations

Indiana's candidates for the U.S. Senate say they want to protect Social Security and Medicare for today's beneficiaries, but have widely differing views on providing benefits for future generations.

See also: State ID laws restrict older Americans.

Joe Donnelly (D) and Richard Mourdock (R) will face off Nov. 6 for the seat that will be vacated by Richard Lugar (R).

Donnelly, 57, is a U.S. congressman from Granger who has served the 2nd District in northern Indiana since 2007. He earned a degree from the University of Notre Dame's law school and practiced law before starting a printing company. Donnelly, whose campaign focuses on bringing jobs to the state, said he is running to be "a common-sense, bipartisan U.S. senator who gets things done for middle-class families in Indiana."

Mourdock, 60, is a resident of Darmstadt in southern Indiana and has been state treasurer since 2007. He holds a master's degree from Ball State University in geology and worked as a geologist before creating an environmental consulting company. Mourdock's campaign focuses on fiscal responsibility.

The candidates' positions were taken from written responses to questions from the AARP Bulletin and from their campaign websites.

Views on Medicare

Mourdock said he favors "immediate and comprehensive" Medicare reform. He would make the program sustainable by replacing the Affordable Care Act with what he said would be more effective, market-based reforms. He would protect current benefits for those 55 and older. For future beneficiaries, he would seek cost reductions, increased flexibility, greater choices and increased competition. Mourdock supports a plan proposed by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that would give beneficiaries a subsidy to buy insurance on the private market but keep traditional fee-for-service Medicare as an option.

Donnelly said he wants to make sure Medicare is there for future generations. "I oppose efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program because it would increase out-of-pocket costs for seniors by an average of $6,000 per person. My opponent … has questioned the constitutionality of Medicare and supported the voucher proposal."

Next: Addressing the future of Social Security. »

Social Security's future

Addressing the future of Social Security, Mourdock said: "We must act soon to protect and strengthen Social Security for future generations through comprehensive and sustainable reform, which starts by protecting current benefits for those who are 55 or older." He would prohibit Congress from borrowing from the trust fund to finance federal spending and reform Social Security to make it sustainable, without raising taxes, and require younger workers to establish personal retirement accounts.

Donnelly said: "I support keeping our promises to seniors who are currently in the program and making sure that the program is strong for future generations. I oppose risky plans to privatize Social Security. … Seniors have paid into Social Security with lifetimes of work, and we need to make sure it is protected."

The candidates vary widely on how to improve retirement security. Mourdock said tax and other policies should create incentives for savings and investment and foster individual- and employer-supported retirement plans. Donnelly wants to bring more good-paying jobs to Indiana so people can work and save for retirement.

The candidates take opposing views on the Affordable Care Act. Donnelly said that while the act isn't perfect, he supported it because there should be "affordable, accessible, quality health care in this country." He favors fixing what isn't working and protecting what he called the many good provisions in the law, such as closing the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" for prescription drug costs.

Mourdock said he opposes the ACA "and would support instead insurance reforms designed to put patients and doctors back in charge of medicine, create new, broader choices for consumers and make all health care expenses tax-deductible."

Nancy Johnson is a freelance writer based in South Bend, Ind.

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