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Maryland's Guide to Election 2012

Candidates' views on Social Security, Medicare, financial security

Before stepping into the voting booth, Annette Thompson, 72, of Gaithersburg, wants to be very clear where candidates stand on issues that affect her financial security.

Join AARP and MPT for the 6th Congressional District Debate between Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett and Democratic challenger John Delaney. For details click here [pdf]

Annette Thompson, will listen carefully to candidates views on Social Security and Medicare before voting

Gaithersburg voter Annette Thompson, 72, will listen carefully to candidates' views before deciding how to vote. — Melissa Golden

To help her and other state residents prepare for their Nov. 6 ballot-box decisions, AARP Maryland has developed a voters' guide for the U.S. Senate race and eight U.S. House races.

"There is a concern that Social Security will not stay solvent and that Medicare benefits will be disturbed," said Thompson, president of the AARP Gaithersburg chapter.

Benefit projections
Medicare trustees predict that without changes the fund that helps pay for hospital costs will be exhausted in 2024.

Social Security trustees project that the program can pay 100 percent of benefits only through 2033. After that, the payout to beneficiaries would drop to about 75 percent.

After the election, federal officials are expected to address various proposals for changes to the programs.

They include increasing the amount of income subject to the payroll tax that finances most of Social Security and some of Medicare, reducing benefits, increasing the eligibility age for both programs, reducing the cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries and raising the Medicare premium for higher-income enrollees.

"I think the election will be very important in terms of financial security and the economic direction of our nation," Thompson said.

The voters' guide includes statements from candidates' websites, news releases and public remarks that address how they would:

  • Protect Social Security for current beneficiaries and strengthen it for future generations.
  • Put Medicare on stronger financial ground and protect current and future enrollees from the burden of rising health costs.

Next: Maryland congressional race debate set for Oct. 28. »

One in seven Marylanders receives Social Security benefits. If not for Social Security, the incomes of 25 percent of residents age 65 and older would fall below the poverty line.

"AARP is committed to ensuring that Americans who pay into Social Security receive the benefits they have worked for," said Kelli Holsendolph, AARP Maryland communications director.

AARP believes Social Security benefits should keep pace with inflation and be kept separate from the rest of the federal budget.

Of the nearly 800,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Maryland, 684,000 are 65 or older.

AARP believes Medicare should continue to guarantee affordable care and specific benefits while strengthening the program so that current and future generations can count on having access to high-quality, affordable coverage.

"Medicare provides peace of mind for Maryland seniors," Holsendolph said.

Debate set for Oct. 28
Such issues are expected to be a focal point in an Oct. 28 debate between incumbent 6th District Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) and Democrat John Delaney in the state's most hotly contested congressional race.

The lines of Maryland's eight congressional districts were recently redrawn, moving a large portion of Montgomery County into the 6th District in Western Maryland. That changed the 6th District from one that reliably voted Republican to one with a majority of Democratic voters.

AARP Maryland and Maryland Public Television are sponsoring the debate. Audience members will have a chance to ask the candidates questions.

To obtain a copy of the voters' guide or to register to attend the 6th District debate, visit the AARP Maryland website. To find out where you vote or to get information on early or absentee voting, check the Maryland State Board of Elections website or call 1-800-222-8683.

Christopher J. Gearon is a writer living in Derwood, Md.

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