09/30/2011 04:45 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2011

A Missouri Value

I never need to go far if I need a reminder of how important Medicare and Social Security are to Missouri's seniors. My mom, Betty Anne, is one of millions for whom these services provide a reliable safety net.

Across the country, these protections are an integral part of sustaining millions of seniors' health and dignity. Unfortunately, some misguided politicians in Washington don't understand the value of these protections.

Earlier this year, I voted to put a stop to a plan that would have dismantled Medicare, turning it into a voucher program. That plan would ultimately have forced seniors on Medicare to pay more than $6,000 more each year just to sustain their current benefits, and would leave seniors to fend for themselves in the health insurance marketplace against large private insurance companies.

Their plan was reckless, and wrong for Missouri seniors. That's why I rejected it.

The Missourians I hear from just don't buy the idea that the only way to tackle the national debt is to drastically alter Medicare and Social Security. We understand that small adjustments can be made to shore up these vital services without radically re-defining them.

That's why I opposed the effort to make Medicare a voucher program. And it's why I'm helping lead an effort in the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share into the Social Security trust fund.

As current law stands, the 94 percent of Americans who earn up to $106,800 are subject to the Social Security tax on all of their income, while the remaining 6 percent who are higher income earners do not similarly pay the tax on all of their income. Under this new legislation (available on my website, HERE), the wealthiest Americans would now also begin paying their fair share into the Social Security trust fund on income above $250,000.

Estimates from the Social Security Administration show that the proposal would extend the solvency of Social Security by an additional 38 years, through 2086, without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.

I'm also advocating some commonsense ways of getting benefits only to the folks who need them--because your tax dollars shouldn't be paying for Donald Trump's prescription drugs.

As a member of the Aging Committee, I'm no stranger to fighting for America's seniors. After holding hearings to get input from Missourians, I led the fight to pass legislation that protects seniors from predatory lending in the mortgage industry. I stood up against efforts that would make it harder for seniors to vote, and battled telemarketers bent on defrauding seniors.

And I voted to close the prescription drug doughnut hole and eliminate co-pays for preventative health services.

This week, I'm traveling my state, hearing directly from Missouri's seniors at town hall events. I look forward to hearing their input and ideas, and taking it with me back to the Senate.

My fight for Missouri's seniors is grounded in our Missouri values and our state's history. Medicare was signed into law at the library of our own Harry Truman. At the time, President Johnson told the nation that it "all started with the man from Independence," pointing to Truman's work on behalf of our seniors. Truman, Johnson said, had "planted the seeds of compassion and duty" that led to Medicare.

And with a signature from President Johnson, Harry Truman became the very first Medicare recipient in the nation's history.

I have the honor of holding Harry Truman's Senate seat today. And I'll continue fighting to make sure that the protections granted to him all those years ago are sustained for today's seniors and are still there for our kids, and grandkids, and for generations to come.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is the senior Senator from Missouri and a member of the Senate Aging Committee.