By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
NEW LONDON, Mo. -- When U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill pointed out how she and Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Todd Akin differ on Medicare she seemed to point out a different outlook on private insurance companies than she expressed during a previous campaign tour.
"My opponent wants to privatize Medicare, wants seniors in the future to have to buy their insurance from private insurance companies and we all know what that means: Arm wrestling the bureaucrats as to whether or not you can afford the premium," McCaskill said during a Monday visit to the Forget-Me-Not Senior Center.
McCaskill went on to say the private insurance companies would wreck Medicare by deciding whether and when seniors could go to the doctor, whether they could take an ambulance, how much they would pay and other things that would be "really difficult for seniors."
It was a different view of private insurance than McCaskill gave when she visited the Lowell Schachtsiek farm near Palmyra Aug. 15. She touted the Affordable Care Act during that previous speech and said the national health care plan would not be a government takeover -- but will rely on private insurance companies.
"I think people are going to be shocked when this (health care program) goes into effect and they see ... it gives us a place to go and share our risks" through private insurers, McCaskill said during her earlier campaign tour.
During Monday's question-answer session with reporters, McCaskill said there is no conflict between her comments about private insurance being bad for seniors and good for the remainder of the nation.
"I think it is a different issue for seniors," McCaskill said.
"The reason we started Medicare in the first place is that seniors were having difficulty affording the premiums because if you look at somebody who's got three chronic illnesses and hospitalizations, can you imagine the premium private insurance companies would charge them? So that's why we decided to have the government take over health care for our seniors," she said.
Senior citizens and Democratic office holders applauded McCaskill during her morning speech as she outlined other differences with Akin.
She said privatizing Social Security would be a bad idea too. People who make bad investment decisions might find themselves without support after retirement, she said.
Akin also has suggested the nation could save money by ending Pell Grants and other educational programs, McCaskill said. She also said Akin wants to abolish the minimum wage.
McCaskill, a Democrat from St. Louis, got one of her biggest applause lines when she talked about saving 167 post offices from closure in Missouri, including the one in Saverton.
"These are more than bricks and mortar," she said.
McCaskill said post offices in small towns are meeting places and life lines for seniors who get their medicine in the mail or businesses that need to send or receive products. Of the thousands of post offices that had been slated for closure before members of Congress objected, the vast majority would have been in rural areas, McCaskill said.
"It is the finest postal service in the world and by the way it is specifically set out in our Constitution that we should have a United States Postal Service. So I don't understand why the tea party, who are talking about being very careful about literal interpretation of the Constitution, why they have insisted on blocking the postal reform bill that will in fact strengthen our postal services for the next decade or beyond," she said.