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Trump Budget Would Hurt Older Americans

February 21, 2018 at 10:00 AM

President Trump’s 2019 budget wouldn’t just hurt people with disabilities, as we’ve explained, but older Americans as well. While running for President, President Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, which serve tens of millions of seniors. Nevertheless, he has proposed cutting Social Security and Medicaid as well as cutting or eliminating other critical supports for older Americans. His budget cuts would make life harder for seniors struggling to get by, even as the new tax law that he signed into law provides a bonanza to the most well-off Americans and profitable corporations.

Here are the details:

  • Medicaid cuts would threaten health care for older Americans — especially their ability to stay in their homes and communities rather than institutions. Medicaid is the nation’s main payer for long-term care, including both nursing home care and home- and community-based services. The budget would cut Medicaid by hundreds of billions over the next decade, largely by adopting the Cassidy-Graham proposal to cap per beneficiary spending in Medicaid — which would severely impact seniors enrolled in the program, making the home- and community-based services that keep them out of institutions especially vulnerable to deep cuts. Facing steep cuts in federal funding, states would likely curtail essential services that enable seniors to remain in their homes, forcing many into institutional care.
  • Deep SNAP (food stamp) cuts would cause more elderly people to struggle to put food on the table. SNAP households with an elderly member receive an average of $124 in benefits each month to help them pay for groceries. For seniors, SNAP participation is linked with reduced nursing home admissions and hospitalization and less frequent skipping of needed medicines, as we’ve detailed. The budget would cut more than $213 billion — nearly 30 percent — from SNAP over the next decade. It would also end SNAP’s minimum monthly benefit for households with one or two people (currently $15), which mainly goes to low-income seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for a benefit of $14 or less and would affect about 2 million people, most of whom would lose benefits altogether. The budget would also raise the age for individuals to be considered “elderly” from 60 to 63, meaning individuals ages 60 through 62 would no longer qualify for certain eligibility rules and program flexibilities designed to reduce administrative burdens and ease access for vulnerable seniors.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cuts would hit many older Americans. Workers pay into Social Security to protect themselves and their families if they retire, become disabled, or die leaving family members to support. Most SSDI beneficiaries — nearly 6 million — are 55 or older and can’t keep working until their full Social Security retirement age due to serious illness or injury. Though the President repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security, his budget cuts SSDI by tens of billions of dollars.
  • Rental and heating assistance cuts would hurt thousands of seniors. The budget’s deep cuts in rental assistance for low-income families would leave more than 200,000 fewer households, roughly 49,000 of which include seniors, without housing vouchers. The budget would also eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income people pay their heating and cooling bills. Some 40 percent of LIHEAP-eligible households include at least one person aged 60 or older.
  • The budget eliminates several programs providing social and community services to older people. One is the Social Services Block Grant, which helps states meet the specialized needs of their most vulnerable populations, such as helping seniors stay in their homes and preventing elder abuse. Another is the Community Service Employment Program, which connects low-income, unemployed people aged 55 or older with part-time work each year. Yet another is Medicare’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which helps older adults with their Medicare benefits and doctor bills.

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