As the race for the U.S. Senate picks up, the two North Carolina candidates have split over Medicare and Social Security. Both incumbent Richard Burr, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger Deborah Ross have said they want to protect Social Security and Medicare, but they have different ideas for doing it.
“There is a huge, stark contrast between me and Senator Burr on Social Security and Medicare. I want to highlight that,” Ross said at a policy discussion in Charlotte Wednesday.
On the campaign trail, Ross has traveled across the state to discuss retirement security with voters. Several Charlotte residents, including members of Mecklenburg County Senior Democrats, attended Wednesday’s event. They shared concerns that included rising hospital costs, shrinking employee benefits and the lack of transparency in the healthcare system.
As a member of the N.C. General Assembly from 2003 to 2013, Ross doesn’t have a voting record on Medicare or Social Security but has said she wants to expand and strengthen those programs. Ideas she stated Wednesday included having wealthier people pay into the programs for a longer period of time, giving people better access to information and costs, and lowering prescription drug prices. Ross has not yet released an official plan detailing these statements.
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What the government shouldn’t do, she said, is cut the programs and privatize them.
“Social Security and Medicare are the safety nets for our seniors,” Ross said. “We absolutely have to stabilize those programs and make sure that they’re available not just to your generation, but that they’re available for generations to come.”
Wednesday’s event was in part a response to Burr’s policies. Burr has written a plan to change Medicare to a program through which people could purchase private health insurance. Traditional Medicare would remain available. He has told CNN that the plan would create more choices for seniors and make the system more efficient and transparent. The plan would also gradually increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67 for future beneficiaries, which Burr has called a commonsense reform.
As a U.S. senator since 2005, he has voted to reduce tax payments on Social Security benefits and for Social Security.
Becca Watkins, a spokeswoman for Burr, said in an email that Burr wants to keep retirees’ benefits intact and enhance Medicare’s benefits for seniors.
Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358, @rachel_herzog