Social Security and Medicare top issues for older WV voters

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series focusing on the results of a state voters’ poll.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s voters age 50 and older remain skeptical of drug companies, which they say are to blame for the rising cost of health care.

Meanwhile, the future of Social Security and Medicare remain top issues of concern among that voting population.

In an AARP WV poll being released this month, the 2018 West Virginia Voters 50+ Report, by AARP West Virginia, 68 percent of surveyed voters believe prescription drug companies charge “as much as possible for drugs because they know that people who are sick, have a health condition or are in pain will pay for it.”

When asked about the factors driving up the cost of health care, “drug companies charging too much for medications and treatment” topped the list, followed by “insurance companies too focused on profits.” At the bottom of the list were “lawsuits” and “aging population.”

Support for allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to bring down prescription drug costs for seniors is nearly unanimous among West Virginia’s voters 50 and older, according to survey results. Three-quarters of voters in the state also said they would back placing legal limits on the profits pharmaceutical companies are allowed to make.

According to projections in the latest Social Security Trustees’ report, Social Security can pay full benefits for 16 years, but if nothing is done to make the program financially sound for the long term, benefits will be cut by nearly 25 percent starting in 2034.

Social Security and measures to shore it up remain one of the most important issues to voters aged 50 and older, who remain on guard against Congressional reforms that they believe would harm seniors.

Regardless of political affiliation, the majority of these voters responded that the government should do something “immediately” to strengthen Social Security for the future.

Similarly, seniors fear reforms to Medicare that may harm them more than it would help. A proposal in Congress that says that, for future seniors, Medicare would no longer pay for health care services directly – instead providing each senior with a set amount of money to help purchase an insurance plan in the private marketplace – is wildly unpopular among the group surveyed.

The nonprofit, non-partisan organization, which counts nearly 300,000 West Virginians among its members, surveyed voters age 50 and older in 20 states between August and September 2018, to assess what would be on their minds when they cast their ballots this fall.

The poll, conducted by Berenson Strategy Group and GS Strategy Group, surveyed 950 likely West Virginia voters between Aug. 21-26, 2018 – 724 likely voters over the age of 50, and 226 likely voters ages 18-49 – and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. For more information on the survey, visit AARP West Virginia on Facebook and on Twitter @AARPWV.