WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF MEDICARE ON SENIOR VOTERS OF COLOR?

voting day in a small town

voting day in a small town (Photo credit: Muffet)

 By Kirk Clay

Senior Voters of Color Want Solutions for Medicare Not Gridlock

 

Choosing a vice president is the biggest exercise in judgment a candidate performs. It offers a rare view of the candidate’s core values and beliefs. Just recently, the GOP Presidential nominee chose a running mate from Congress that vows to repeal Obamacare and drafted a budget which includes a proposed change in Medicare. As a result, we are debating policies that would impact the daily lives of our seniors.

Of the 47 million American’s who are covered by Medicare or Medicare Advantage, the elderly make up the majority of our nation’s most vulnerable who depend on the red, white, and blue Medicare card. This economic policy has significant real life implications.  Before it’s inception in 1965, one in three seniors lived in poverty, many having squandered their life savings on costly medical care. Today, only one in six elderly people are in poverty due to medical cost. Clearly, Medicare has made a difference.

As noted by many political experts, the senior voting block is one of the most educated and active constituencies in politics. Therefore, this debate provides us with an exceptional opportunity to have a conversation about the need for a balanced approach to America’s health and financial security.

Further, this positions Medicare as one of the best issues for debating the role and size of Government. Simply put, if a candidate can’t explain to our seniors how shrinking or maintaining the current size and role of government would work, maybe they shouldn’t be elected.

A recent study from AARP underscored how serious of an issue Medicare will be for senior voters as they head to the polls—especially voters of color.  According to the study:

●          Two-Thirds of Latino and Three-Fourths of African American senior voters plan to rely on Medicare even more due to the state of the economy.

●          49% of Latinos and 35% of African Americans are not confident that Medicare will be there for them and future generations.

●          90% of Latinos and 97% of African Americans say the next President and Congress need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

●          97% of Latinos and 98% of African Americans believe Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

To get a better sense about the significance of Medicare, I talked with my Grandma. She confirmed the study, “Baby, these politicians will tell you anything to get elected. The truth is, I now get a number of benefits after Obamacare.”

She reminded me of how the family struggled to help her pay prescription costs until she started receiving the discounts. “Remember how you were shocked at how low the bill was last week? I think it’s called closing the doughnut hole.” We also talked about the fact that seniors now get free wellness visits and the limit on out of pocket costs for things like co-pays. She shot back “how will it work if they repeal Obamacare?”

I couldn’t answer that, because I haven’t seen a healthcare plan from Congress. They launched “A Pledge to America” after Conservatives took control of the House in 2010 but nothing happened. No wonder this Congress has the lowest approval in history with only 10% of Americans approving the job they’ve done in the last two gridlocked years. According to the AARP study, among senior VOC 57% of Latinos and 90% of African Americans approve of the job that President Obama is doing. By contrast, more than 62% of Latinos and 67% of African American senior voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

That’s why it’s so interesting that the GOP would bring a leader of the “Do-nothing” Congress into the race for the White House. That sentiment is backed by our seniors–64% of Latino and 65% of African American seniors believe their personal economic circumstances have been negatively affected by political gridlock. Also 88% of Latinos and 93% of African Americans believe Medicare is critical to maintaining their health.

Those two numbers may indicate the reason the GOP presidential candidate is having such a hard time connecting to voters on a personal level. A reported 74% of Latinos and 80% of African American seniors say “learning the candidates’ plans on strengthening and reforming” Medicare would help them to decide who to vote for. Yet 48% of Latinos and 39% of African American seniors say Candidates are not doing a good job explaining their plans for strengthening and reforming Medicare. To them, if you don’t have a comprehensive healthcare plan, people may take it to mean you’re hiding something.

Is grandma right? Are VOC in swing states paying attention to this debate? Will American voters base their vote on trust? Are there enough progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, Seniors, and Young Voters to break the stalemate in Washington?

To figure this out we should look to states like Nevada where the state gained a Congressional seat and an electoral vote after the 2010 census. VOC now make up 28% of the citizen voting age population and 60% of them are registered to vote. VOC represented 26% of the electorate in 2008 and that number jumped to 29% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. That year, Latinos represented 16% of the vote share and 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. While North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 and now have over 46,000 “key” VOC in the area, it will take plenty of resources to engage this electorate.

Note that, 88% of Nevada’s baby boomers disapprove of the job Congress is doing and 93% believe that Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

For over 46 years, Medicare has made a difference for millions of Americans. It is one government program that has worked so well that people don’t think it’s a government program at all. Many seniors say that “if I didn’t have Medicare, doctor bills could wipe me out and put a burden on my kids”. Paying six thousand dollars more for insurance may not sound like much, but if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you’re already counting every penny, $6,000 is serious money.

As my grandma and I continued to talk, I realized that she didn’t care about who is credited for building Medicare. All that matters is that it works and she has access to it when she needs it. She reminds me that we all stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They taught us that America works best when we all help each other become successful. A successful society is built on a nucleus of hard working, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy. The thing is “you can’t buy trust, you earn it.” That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

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