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Ellwood City Ledger: Courting Pennsylvania’s seniors, Katie McGinty vows to protect Social Security

August 2, 2016

Ellwood City Ledger: Courting Pennsylvania's seniors, Katie McGinty vows to protect Social Security, Medicare

by J.D. Prose

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty is taking her election bid straight to older Pennsylvanians, unveiling a plan to fight for Social Security and Medicare while charging that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s policies threaten both.

“The government needs to make good on its promises,” McGinty told Calkins Media on Tuesday, saying the state’s estimated 2 million seniors contributed to Social Security for decades and should be able to rely on it now.

“That’s their money,” she said.

Toomey, R-Lehigh County, has supported efforts in the past to allow recipients to invest in the stock market, McGinty said, and that would only benefit investment firms and put savings at risk. “The senator’s idea would be a bonanza for Wall Street, but a real bane for the 2 million Pennsylvania senior citizens who depend on Social Security,” she said.

According to the AARP, 93 percent of those 65 and older in Pennsylvania receive Social Security benefits.

Toomey campaign spokesman Ted Kwong said McGinty was on shaky ground when it came to her criticism of the Republican incumbent.

"Katie McGinty desperately continues to use widely disproven lies about Pat Toomey's record on seniors issues to distract from her own record,” Kwong said. “It's Katie McGinty who pushed to raise taxes on nursing home care last year in Pennsylvania, which an independent analysis showed added up to thousands of dollars a year for the average family."

In her plan, McGinty vows to fight efforts to privatize Social Security and says she would focus on reforming the cost-of-living-adjustment formula “so that it reflects the true costs experience by seniors.”

She said lawmakers also need to expand Social Security “to help those who need it the most,” such as widowers and widows facing reduced benefits and those who left careers to instead care for a child or sick relative.

Expanding coverage and solidifying the program would be funded by raising the payroll tax cap “so millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share,” McGinty proposes in her plan.

Toomey’s campaign pointed to several articles from The Washington Post and FactCheck.org saying Democrats' claims that Republicans wanted to privatize Social Security were exaggerated.

As for Medicare, McGinty said it is “far too often” used to balance budgets and she will oppose vouchers and raising the Medicare retirement age. McGinty also promised to oppose efforts to raise prescription drug costs “by protecting the Affordable Care Act from partisan attacks” and fighting proposals to reopen the so-called prescription drug “donut hole.”

McGinty said in an interview that a focus of hers in the Senate would be to “take off the handcuffs” that keep Medicare from negotiating drug prices so they are more in line with other nations where prescription drugs are much cheaper.

McGinty said Toomey has repeatedly voted to diminish various parts of Medicare. “Sen. Toomey and the Republican agenda on Medicare is just wrong and I will oppose it every step of the way in the Senate,” she said.

Another goal in McGinty’s plan is to ensure that seniors who want to remain at home have that opportunity. “We can and must make a real effort to give seniors the option of remaining at home with the support of their communities, while also lifting up the caregivers who support them,” she says in her plan.

Doing so not only give seniors independence, but saves taxpayers money, McGinty said, promising to back legislation that offers incentives for home health-care delivery. McGinty said she would also support raising the pay of home health-care workers and directing more money into training them.

In response, Toomey’s campaign cited several legislative measures that Toomey supported to reform Medicare, allow seniors to stay in their homes longer and to improve coverage for beneficiaries suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

It also highlighted a bipartisan effort, which included Toomey and Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, to reduce prescription abuse and Medicare fraud.

McGinty’s plan also says she will defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from attacks that weaken its ability to protect seniors and other Americans. Specifically, McGinty says that 21,000 Pennsylvania residents, many of them seniors, have used the CFPB to combat predatory banks and lenders, and other issues.

She said Toomey has been a part of those efforts to weaken the CFPB. “This is the senator’s big banker pedigree showing again,” McGinty said. “It’s despicable that the senator is taking the side of financial predators instead of his own constituents.”

On this issue, Toomey’s campaign said he has proposed “modest reforms” to the CFPB, including replacing an “unaccountable” director with a bipartisan board and chairman.