While most of the dire predictions about the adverse consequences of Congress allowing sequestration to occur are aimed at funding cuts to public education and the military, our senior citizens also stand to be victimized.
In 2011 Congress passed a law stipulating that if Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit by March 1, 2013, about a trillion dollars worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect. March 1 came and went Friday without the bipartisan plan that would have headed off the draconian budget cuts. The sequestration cuts would be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending. On the domestic side of sequestration, it now appears that in addition to the loss of federal dollars devoted to education, federal funding cuts will also adversely affect Medicare and support programs for the elderly. During President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, he acknowledged, “The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms...But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful...We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare.”
In addition to the two percent reduction in Medicare payments to providers under sequestration, which will amount to a savings of $9.9 billion in 2013, Missouri’s senior citizens will suffer a loss of $2,500,668 in support services. Statewide, according to Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (ma4) Executive Director Catherine Edwards, the ability of senior service agencies like Marceline’s Nutrition Site and Brookfield’s Senior Center to provide support services will be reduced in the following proportions:
— A $1,509,230 cut in the Nutrition Program that provides both congregate and home-delivered meals;
— A cut of $640,659 in support services like transportation, case management, and personal care;
— A reduction of $312,435 in preventative and caregiver support; and
— A $38,344 cut in Elder Justice services which, among other things, protects seniors living in nursing homes from abuse.
We called Northwest Missouri Area Agency on Aging Director Becky Flaherty to determine how senior services in her 18-county coverage area, which includes Linn County, would be impacted by sequestration. Applying the Older Americans Act Interstate Funding Formula, Flaherty calculated that the loss to senior services in the Northwest Missouri Area Agency on Aging would amount to $149,104.83 this year.