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Gillibrand addresses issues impacting seniors, caregivers in town hall

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York answered questions from AARP in a town hall Thursday.

U.S. Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand answered questions from members of AARP Thursday about legislation addressing issues affecting seniors. Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said making long-term care more accessible and affordable is among her top priorities.

The Democrat said she backed legislation that would compensate family caregivers who tend to a loved one at home.

“They’re looking after their loved ones. If they weren’t, those family members would be using Medicaid and Social Security dollars to put those family members in institutional care,” Gillibrand explained. “The fact that you’re staying home for your loved one is saving everybody a lot of money.”

Staying home from work to care for a loved one, however, can also put certain benefits at risk, she added.

The senator said full-time caregivers should receive social security payments equal to what is given to support people with disabilities.

Questions for Gillibrand also touched on prescription drug prices. She said Congress and the President should reform campaign finance law to loosen pharmaceutical lobbyists’ grip on drug policy. That way, legislators are less influenced against reducing prescription prices.

“It’s a long time to change what’s happening,” the senator said. “You would need to change the make-up of the Supreme Court, because it’s very conservative and they’re not going to support campaign finance reform.”

When asked about what she will do to address robocall scams that target seniors, Gillibrand spoke to what she sees as a gap in national cybersecurity efforts. Protecting seniors, she said, is especially critical.

“I think we need better cyber defense and better protection. There’s nobody doing domestic cyber protection against foreign adversaries right now. It’s a big hole in our system,” said Gillibrand, who is also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She said many of these exploitative calls come from abroad. The FBI investigates those calls, but there aren’t many efforts to prevent them, Gillibrand added.

Older Americans lose roughly $2.9 billion a year to financial exploitation scams, according to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

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