REPUBLICAN Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett is running against Democrat Stephen Crawford in Maryland's Sixth Congressional District, which runs from western Howard County through Western Maryland. The following are excerpts from their responses to a questionnaire from The Sun.
1) What action do you think the 105th Congress should take to assure the financial integrity of Social Security and Medicare?
Bartlett: Seniors should be empowered to choose from a variety of health-care programs to find the one best tailored to their individual needs. Such competition would increase health-care quality and bring down costs. Health Maintenance Organizations, Provider Service Networks and Medical Savings
Accounts have all been suggested as possibilities to compete with, not replace, Medicare.
I am confident that with honest exchanges and sufficient debate, we can preserve Social Security and protect our children from an unconscionable tax burden.
Crawford: There is an alternative to this ''too far, too fast'' approach to reforming Medicare. I support a two-step approach advocated by both the Medicare Trustees and the American Association of Retired Persons.
First, we must take immediate steps to ensure the solvency of the Medicare Part A Hospital Trust Fund. We must adopt an effective system of cost containment that will limit the growth of spending, rather than forcing seniors to pay beyond their means.
One example that has worked efficiently through the years has been the implementation of Prospective Payment Systems (PPS). Since 1983, PPS has been applied to hospital fees where hospitals receive a predetermined amount based on a patient's ailment. The trustees report that extending the PPS to nine other services covered by Medicare would alleviate the short-term crisis facing the program and allow time to develop a sensible long-term policy.
Finally, we must allow a wider range of investment for our Social Security trust-fund dollars. The trust would achieve a better return if the trustees were allowed to invest in a variety of conservative stock and bond options.
On Social Security, I propose an approach similar to that offered by Robert Ball, member of the Advisory Council of Social Security. The normal retirement age . . . under current law, would be increased from 65 to 67 by 2022. However, if the age hike were accelerated to increase to 67 by the year 2012, significant savings could be achieved.
Second, Old Age, Survivors, Disability Insurance benefits should included in taxable income, disregarding the current threshold-income rules.
Troops in Bosnia
2) What action, if any, should the U.S. take in participating in a follow-on force in Bosnia after the December deadline for the withdrawal of the current U.S. troop contingent?
Crawford: Although I was wary of the initial commitment of U.S. troops in Bosnia, I believe that our involvement in the region has ++ provided a stabilizing force and has enabled the interested parties to work toward creating a semblance of peace for the first time in years. . . .
As long as Bosnia remains relatively safe, I believe a slight extension of the U.S. presence in the region is justified. Thus, I support the revised timetable and additional commitment of 5,000 troops to maintain stability in the Balkans and ensure a safe withdrawal of the 16,000 Americans already stationed there.
Bartlett: Secretary of Defense William Perry originally testified before Congress that the United States' deployment of troops to Bosnia would last no more than one year. However, now that our troops have been in Bosnia for nearly a year, the president has said our troops may be required to stay in Bosnia for up to an additional six months. The U.S. should support the NATO coalition in its attempt to implement the Dayton Peace accords. However, we should not be the only show of force in a region that has endured civil war for several centuries.
3) What do you think of the welfare-reform bill? Does it need modification?
Crawford: While I do agree with many of the principles included ** in the recently passed welfare-reform bill, I have reservations about the provisions dealing with the food-stamp program and the treatment of legal immigrants and children. The current legislation would end the federal guarantee of nutritional and other assistance to children as well as prohibit disabled and elderly legal immigrants from receiving Supplemental Social Security income. In addition, the reform package passes many of the problems associated with welfare to the states through the implementation of block grants.
As we move toward a restructured welfare system emphasizing employment, we have to be certain that private-sector jobs are available to recipients. This is why I favor President Clinton's proposal of offering tax incentives to businesses that hire those formerly on the welfare rolls. With some fine-tuning, the welfare bill can be fair and encourage work for all able-bodied Americans.