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    Nelson lists his proposals for seniors

    The Senate hopeful says he will defend Social Security and help family caregivers.

    By EDIE GROSS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 3, 2000


    It was U.S. Senate hopeful Bill Nelson's turn Monday to issue this year's familiar battle cry for candidates intent on capturing the coveted senior vote: Save Social Security.

    His message, delivered at Clearwater's Top of the World retirement complex, was well-received by about 50 seniors gathered in the community's east recreation center.

    "Everything he said, I agree with 100 percent," said an enthusiastic Nick Kavourias, 82.

    "I think he's terrific," added Kavourias' wife of 53 years, Clara.

    Nelson, 58, a former U.S. representative who has been Florida's Democratic insurance commissioner since 1994, faces Republican U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, 56, for the Senate seat being vacated by Connie Mack.

    On Monday, Nelson announced several initiatives to shore up Social Security and protect seniors' access to health insurance.

    Now, Medicaid often pays for nursing home care for the country's poorest residents, Nelson said. But when those people die, the government can seek reimbursement for those Medicaid expenses from the patients' estates. Nelson said he would push to end this practice.

    "It is going after the poorest of the poor," he said. "For poor people, this is often the final indignity."

    Nelson also suggested that the federal government:

    Pay off the national debt and use the interest savings to beef up the Social Security trust fund rather than "squander" the surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Issue a $3,000 tax credit for family members acting as caregivers for elderly or disabled relatives.

    Approve a tax deduction on long-term care insurance premiums to encourage young people to prepare early for their "twilight years."

    Oppose any effort that would force Medicare patients into managed care plans, reduce Social Security benefits or increase the retirement age.

    "The average citizen's priorities will be ignored by special interests and big companies unless someone will stand up for the average citizen," Nelson said. "I've had to stand up and fight as insurance commissioner and now I want to go to Washington."

    Top of the World resident Margaret Shipley, 85 and a lifelong Democrat, seemed intent on sending Nelson to the nation's capital after listening to him Monday.

    "He's a marvelous person, and he's going to do good things for us. He cares for senior citizens and young people. He cares for the future, and I like that about him. He cares for all of us," said Shipley. "That Bill McCollum, you can take him and throw him in the river."

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