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Illinois House Candidates Lock Horns on Medicare, Social Security

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The candidates in a battleground congressional district in Illinois disagreed about the impact for Social Security and Medicare of a Republican-passed plan crafted by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) during an Oct. 21 radio debate sponsored by AARP.

Democratic challenger Ann Callis said that Ryan s budget blueprint would open the door to privatizing Social Security and move Medicare to a “defined contribution” system. She has criticized her opponent, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), for supporting a plan that she says would cause “incredible harm.”

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Davis, who s running for a second term, defended Ryans proposal as a “plan of action to make sure Medicare as we know it is there for those who are on it” and to assure that the retirement and health care plans of older Americans are available for future generations.

“We need to have an adult conversation,” Davis said. Otherwise, he said, “Medicare is going to go broke in 12 years.”

In what was a mostly friendly debate in which the candidates frequently voiced agreement on issues, Davis said that Congress should consider options such as “means testing” for wealthy Social Security beneficiaries. He said that he opposed privatization of Social Security.

Callis, after voicing her opposition to steps such as raising the retirement age or changing Social Security s cost-of-living formula, said, “We can leave on the table raising the payroll tax.” She called for a bipartisan commission to study Social Security issues.

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To address the long-term financing of Medicare, she called for negotiations with pharmaceutical companies “to put a cap on costs,” along with a more aggressive focus on “fraud and abuse in the Medicare system.”

House Democrats have touted Callis, a former judge, as one of their leading challengers nationwide. But political handicappers have said that Davis — a self-styled centrist who said that he rejects “polarization” — appears to be the front-runner in the Springfield-area district.

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