Proposed federal budget impacts seniors

Patricia Hafermann • Benefit Specialist

Policy makers and legislators are currently grappling with what programs to fund and cut in the upcoming state and federal budgets.

President Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress slashes $3.6 trillion over 10 years for domestic programs that have proven to benefit low-income Americans and seniors. The cuts include $610 billion from Medicaid and $193 billion from Food Share over the next ten years.

These cuts to Medicaid are in addition to the cuts that were contained in the health care bill, passed by the House of Representatives titled the American Health Care Act. It is estimated that these cuts together would decrease Medicaid spending by $1.3 trillion over the next decade.

The proposed cuts will be particularly bad for seniors needing long-term nursing home care because Medicaid is the primary payer of these services.

The proposed budget would also eliminate the following programs designed to help older adults:

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHP) which provides one-on-one assistance and counseling to Medicare beneficiaries with complex benefit questions. Many experts have argued that this is the worst possible time to eliminate SHIP because more individuals will need the assistance as the population of the United States ages.

Senior Community Service Employment Program, (WISE program), which is the only federal job training program focused on the unique needs of seniors.

Corporation for National and Community Services, which is an independent agency that runs the long-standing Senior Corps program. This program specifically operates the volunteer programs of the Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP. These programs place a large number of volunteers in highquality volunteer positions, generating 96 million hours of community service. Given the health benefits of volunteering, this is a win-win for older adults and the communities they serve.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, (LIHEAP), which helps older adults afford their utility bills so they can keep the lights on, stay warm in the winter, and keep cool in the summer.

For a more complete list of the programs for seniors the Trump Budget would eliminate or reduce, visit the Press Statement of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which catalogs many more of the Trump budget’s proposed cuts impacting seniors.

These, of course, are just proposals. Congress ultimately determines what is contained in the budget. However, it is extremely important to understand that these proposals are consistent with prior similar legislative proposals of the majority party in Congress. As a result, seniors must ensure that policy makers and legislators are aware of the positive impact that government programs have for not only seniors, but the economy in general.

It is important to remind members of Congress that estimates show that poverty costs the economy of the United States more than $500 billion every year from low productivity, poor health, and high levels of crime and incarceration. Many experts agree that economic equality in industrialized nations creates better health and social cohesion, while income inequality destroys social fabric and quality of life.

Some people object to government programs because of the fear that government programs affect the work ethic of those receiving these benefits. However, this perspective fails to recognize the economic reality for many individuals and how government programs already address these issues many individuals are working multiple jobs but still remain in poverty. Some 46.2 million Americans now live in families where someone is working but earning less than the poverty line. This is not surprising given that the gap between worker and CEO pay was eight times larger in 2015 than in 1980. Far from serving a static under-class of the perpetually poor, safety net programs benefit the majority of Americans – 70 percent – at some point in their lives. In fact, there have been significant changes in the safety net programs since the Clinton Administration. Congress designed those changes so that safety net programs target individuals who are moderately poor due to being able to obtain work rather than individuals who are the poorest because of the inability to work. In order to receive benefits, more and more safety net programs already require able-bodied individuals to be employed.

If you have any additional questions, you may call Pat Hafermann, Elderly Benefits Specialist with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (920) 467-4076.

Sources: Published with permission from the Legal Services Team at the Greater Wisconsin

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