EUREKA, Ill. -- Congressional candidate Junius Rodriguez saw different participation levels in a pair of town hall meetings Monday night.
At El Paso in Woodford County, Rodriguez had about 25 participants who asked questions and then told the Democratic nominee in Illinois' 18th Congressional District what they see as top priorities.
Then in Leroy in McLean County, Rodriguez found only three people and "sat around a table for 90 minutes and had a conversation."
Health care was a high-priority topic for people attending the meetings, and Rodriguez laid out what he sees as long- and short-term changes for U.S. medical care.
"In the long term I think we're going to see a single-payer system," with the federal government covering health care costs, Rodriguez said.
He does not believe that will happen in the short term because it might take until 2022 for the political pendulum to swing back toward Democratic majorities of sufficient strength in Congress.
In the short term, Rodriguez said, he believes there are some savings that can be "squeezed out of the system." He said that so far, there has not been the political will to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and lower coverage costs with insurance companies.
Social Security was a concern at the town halls.
Noting that only the first $128,700 of wages is taxed for Social Security, Rodriguez said he would like to see that cap raised to $200,000 and would favor collection of those taxes on nonwage earnings up to a similar level.
"I do not necessarily want to raise the retirement age, but I think if we add one or two or three options, more people might defer filing for Social Security benefits," Rodriguez said.
One incentive might be that the cost of supplemental Medicare plans could be partly or fully covered if people deferred retirement.
Rodriguez is holding 11 town hall meetings this week. He plans to be at the Eagles Club in Carthage from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday before heading to Quincy, where he will be at the Microtel Inn and Suites from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
On Friday, Rodriguez plans to be at the Pike County Farm Bureau building from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Rodriguez is challenging U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, in the November election.