In June the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the fate of the healthcare reform and with it, the fate of many seniors in this country. There is consensus that healthcare reform cannot be viable if the public option is deemed unconstitutional. This comes at a time when the economic and health security of seniors is at its worst. Healthcare reform,although aimed at the 40 million uninsured individuals, provided great benefits to seniors who cannot afford long term care. Included in the healthcare reform were incentives to state to provide affordable long term care to seniors who want to remain in their communities and avoid costly nursing home care.
Lets take a look at what is at stake. Debt and deficit reduction proposals by policymakers include major changes to thre three major entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Some proposals include raising the age of retirement to 67 years, asking higher income Medicare beneficiaries to contribute more to the cost of Medicare and federal block grants to states so they can pay the federal share of their Medicaid program expenses. One mistake made by policymakers is to look at each of these programs separately and failure to recognize how interrelated they are in their effect on the economic security and well being of seniors. For example, stopping annual increases in social security payments will result in less funds available to seniors to pay for healthcare.
Most seniors live on low or modest incomes, 1 in 10 have income below the poverty level ($10,458) and the number of seniors living in poverty increased when you take into account out-of-pocket expenses from 9 to 15%. Many seniors today do not have long term care insurance coverage which means that assisted living and community care services are unaffordable or that paying for them will require a larger outlay. It is predicted that low incme seniors will exhaust all their assets by the time they reach older age. It is estimated that 2/3 of those 65 years and older will need long term care services. Meaning that they will be solely reliant on Medicare and Medicaid to survive. And yet most states restrict long term care funding in community settings forcing these seniors to enter nursing home care prematurely at four times the cost. Dont they see the writing on the wall, or is it that they constantly engage in wishful thinking? Those who will fare the worst are minority groups. Poverty rates among black and hispanic seniors are more than twice as high as those among their white counterparts. To compound the problem they suffer from a multitude of healthcare problems, again higher than the white seniors. One wonders what information our policymakers rely on to make untimely and disastrous cut cutting decisions. Not our seniors.