Social Security issues highlight forum

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 16, 2000

Republican Dunn Lampton touted giving participants choices inSocial Security retirement benefits while Democratic incumbentRonnie Shows warned of dangers with the plan Sunday during acandidates’ forum at the Multi-Use Facility.

Privatization of Social Security was a popular issue between thecandidates for 4th District U.S. representative in the forumsponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).Prescription drug coverage, managed care and long-term health carewere other topics of discussion during the forum that lasted aboutan hour and a half.

Lampton, mentioning GOP presidential contender George W. Bushand his proposals, said he trusted people to make the rightdecisions in areas such as Social Security.

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“I believe in people and I believe in giving them choices,”Lampton said.

The Bush plan which Lampton supports would allow Social Securityparticipants to take out up to 2 percent of their contributions andinvest for a personal retirement account.

Lampton said provisions would be needed so benefits are notlost, but he believes the system change would help restore youngerworkers’ faith that Social Security will be there for them whenthey retire. He said the plan would be voluntary, but he would besurprised if many people didn’t sign up to participate.

“I think we need to give those options to some of our youngworkers,” Lampton said.

Shows, however, touted tax incentives to encourage people tosave. He warned of the dangers for investment plan.

“You have to be very careful…,” Shows said. “I’m not forprivatization of Social Security.”

Shows said Social Security was designed as a safety net and wasnot intended to be everything. He said the investment plan wouldthreaten the ability to pay benefits to current recipients.

“You will not have enough money to pay benefits if you take out2 percent for people to invest,” Shows said.

In other forum discussion topics, Shows said Patient’s Bill ofRights legislation is currently in congressional conference and hewas hopeful of its passage. He advocated health care choices madeby patients and doctors and prescription drug payments that are thesame regardless of whether a person lives in an urban or ruralarea.

Lampton said doctors and patients, and not an accountant, shouldbe making decisions regarding a person’s health care. He supporteda review panel to combat “wrongheaded” decisions and limits onlegal options.

“We need to make sure the Patient’s Bill of Rights doesn’t turninto a lawyer’s right to bill,” Lampton said.

Regarding prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients,Shows said drugs should affordable in all parts of the country.

With 39 million Medicare recipients, Shows supportednegotiations with drug companies. He said large retail stores do itand he estimated the competition would save 40 percent on drugcosts.

“That’s what this country’s based on: competition,” Showssaid.

Lampton echoed Bush proposals of making drugs affordable throughhealth insurance, thereby using the private sector rather than “biggovernment” to address the issue.

On the topic of long-term care, Lampton said at-home care andnursing home care are the two components of the issue.

The Republican supported personal tax exemptions for peoplecaring for a loved one at home and making long-term health careinsurance affordable for those considering nursing homes. He alsocalled for support of faith-based organizations to allow them toexpand services.

Saying the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was putting ruralhospitals and home health care agencies out of business, Showscalled for corrections in the legislation. He said the situationwould only get worse if it is not addressed now.

For care options, he supported tax credits to allow citizens topurchase long-term care. He said credit options should not bediscriminatory whether people choose nursing homes or at-homecare.