Mar 10

Care Connection Executive Director concern about proposed cuts to senior programs

Date: March 10, 2017 | Category: News

WARRENSBURG – Care Connection for Aging Services Executive Director Diana Hoemann expressed concern Friday about a Missouri legislative proposal that targets vulnerable seniors’ benefits.

Cuts to long-established programs that directly support needy Missouri seniors are being considered by the Missouri House Budget Committee, chaired by Scott Fitzpatrick (R) – Shell Knob. The elimination of property tax credits that enable seniors to stay in their homes will be debated on Monday, March 6. Other targeted programs include a reduction in MORx benefits for low income seniors and significant changes in the level of care criteria to receive Medicaid for frail seniors and the disabled.

“We at Care Connection come face-to-face everyday with low-income seniors who would be most affected by these proposed cuts,” said Hoemann, whose area agency on aging serves 13 West Central Missouri counties. “Such budget decreases would be devastating to seniors who depend on these programs to remain healthy and independent.”

Hoemann also serves as the president of the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (ma4), a statewide group opposing cuts to senior services.

“We are alarmed by these proposed budgets cuts because they target the most financially insecure seniors in Missouri,” said Catherine Edwards, Executive Director of the ma4. “The cuts come at a time when we are struggling to keep funding in place to provide the most basic services for seniors who are living on the edge. We’re talking about food, medicine, housing and transportation. We consider these new cuts as drastic measures to balance the state budget by taking basic support away from a population that has given so much to Missouri, their families and their communities. They deserve to be able to lead out their lives in their homes, if possible, and be secure in the knowledge that we as Missourians have their backs when it comes to their health and well-being.”

About 240,000 Missourians received MORx benefits in 2016. MORx is the state’s official pharmacy assistance program for those in need and supplements Medicare (Part D) prescription drug benefits. The budget proposal under consideration would change eligibility requirements allowing only those who are on both Medicare and Medicaid to receive benefits. Approximately 60,000 seniors would lose their MORx benefits and be required to pay costly out-of-pocket charges for expensive medication.

The elimination of property tax credits in HB3 would reverse an established program that has allowed thousands of seniors and disabled persons to remain in their homes. About 100,706 low-income seniors and disabled persons who rent would lose the credit. An additional 91,505 who own their homes would likewise lose the credit, affecting a combined total of more than 192,000 Missourians. “We know that without this credit, seniors and disabled persons in every single Missouri city and town will lose a source of income that keeps them in their homes, saving the taxpayers huge sums associated with state-sponsored institutional care. This is a case of being penny-wise and pound foolish,” said Edwards.

As part of its regular services through its 22 senior centers, Care Connection provides help to older adults in filing for this property tax credit. Last year, the agency helped more than 770 people who received rebates averaging $460. For many of these seniors, the rebates provides for basic needs such as food and medications.

The Budget Committee will also consider changes in the criteria for Medicaid eligibility. It would increase the level of care points from 21 to 24 to qualify for benefits. If adopted, this new provision would affect Missouri’s most frail seniors and many disabled citizens.

“I think it’s important to put these cuts in context,” said Edwards. “Right now, we know that fully 400,000 of Missouri’s 1.2 million seniors rely on social security for 90 percent of their annual income. This means that for every three seniors who may cross your path during the day, one is struggling to meet the most basic needs. They are part of a growing population of Missouri’s hidden poor. They live on the financial edge. Some lost the bulk of their retirement accounts during the recession, others suffered catastrophic illnesses that drained their savings and some have simply lived longer than planned. There is no going back for them. They can’t wake up tomorrow morning and launch a new career or make those long-term investments that grow into nice nest eggs later on. This is real life.”

Edwards said the budget crisis presents an opportunity for Missourians to take a hard look at the programs that truly deliver the goods. “We know that every dollar invested in our senior programs saves the taxpayer money. We need to be supporting measures that will keep our seniors healthy and at home. It’s a wise investment and it’s the right thing to do.”

For more information, contact Catherine Edwards at cedwards@ma4web.org.

About Care Connection for Aging Services: Care Connection is a nonprofit that operates 23 locations in 13 counties including Bates, Benton, Carroll, Cedar, Chariton, Henry, Hickory, Johnson, Lafayette, Pettis, Saline, St. Clair and Vernon. Its mission is to provide resources and services that empower people to create health aging experiences. For more information, call us at 1-800-748-7826.

About The Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (MA4)