Protecting Medicare and keeping health insurance affordable were promises Florida congressional candidates made to an audience of community leaders and age 50-plus voters at an elections event Friday in Miami that was sponsored by AARP and Politico Playbook.
“Older voters are uneasy about their future, their finances, their health care,” and their votes “are up for grabs,” Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, said in his opening remarks at the event. Johnson says the age 50-plus electorate is a critically important group of voters for candidates to understand.
AARP and Politico Magazine are teaming up to demonstrate how important the 50-plus vote is in determining the makeup of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as in state races across the nation. Friday’s event was part of that collaboration, as is a series of public opinion polls and a Politico Magazine series called "The Deciders."
Three Democratic congressional candidates in Florida’s Aug. 28 primary and the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party fielded questions from Politico journalists. The candidates all promised to protect Medicare and health care access, although they differed on the details.
For example, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Florida state Rep. David Richardson are both running for the Democratic nomination for the 27th Congressional District in Miami-Dade. That seat is being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Richardson says he favors a “Medicare for all” proposal that would move Americans from employer-based health care insurance to Medicare. Shalala says she wants people to be able to keep their private health insurance. And, before adding people to the Medicare rolls, she wants to make sure the program’s financial well-being is protected and that long-term care is added. Stephen Marks, one of the Republican hopefuls in that race, was scheduled to appear but did not make it.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a longtime nonprofit activist who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 26th Congressional district, told the audience she wants to first address the current attacks on health care, then get to "Medicare for all."
For Dan Salz and his wife, Gisela Gomar-Salzverg, the future of health care is their highest priority. A retired business owner and college bookstore manager, Salz is also a cancer survivor. They have not reached Medicare age yet and are shopping around for health care.
Salz said his health insurance premiums will be like having a mortgage again, but he can afford it. He worries, however, about those who cannot. “What about the people whose lives are as important as mine and can’t afford to pay?” asks Salz, who describes himself as a “dying breed” of moderate Republican.
For Alex Ariano, a mental health counselor, and Hope Reynolds, a retired author, their biggest concern is about what they see as the lack of civility in government and politics. “We’ve lost the decency to accept that people maybe have a different opinion than mine,” Reynolds says. Both say they see their freedoms slipping away.