President Trump sent his first full budget outline for FY 2018 to Congress recently
and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is very concerned about its effect on vital community supports.
The Trump budget proposes to eliminate a large number of major programs that help low-income
older adults meet their basic needs, find jobs to make ends meet, give back to their communities through volunteerism, get one-on-one help understanding their Medicare and other benefits, and live independently at home and in the community, avoiding more expensive nursing home care. Further, the budget cuts Medicaid by $600 billion over 10 years, a massive disinvestment in our nation's primary safety net health and long-term care program as noted by n4a CEO Sandy Markwood.
The Trump budget does preserve the Older Americans Act programs and services funded through the Administration on Aging which will enable local agencies to continue to offer in-home services, home-delivered and congregate meals, and other programs. The level funding, however, will not allow local agencies to keep up with escalating demand. Moreover, l
ocal agencies and providers draw from a wide range of federal and state funding streams to create a patchwork of resources to help older consumers and their caregivers - funding streams that are in jeopardy under Trump's budget proposals.
"For example, eliminating the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIPs) would create undue pressure on Older Americans Act (OAA) III B Supportive Services, with consumers desperate for Medicare help reaching out to their Area Agency on Aging (two-thirds of which currently receive SHIP funding to provide this important service) through AAA information and referral lines, only to find there are no longer any SHIP-trained counselors available to help," predicted Markwood. (SHIP is the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program - MMAP - in Michigan.)
Several Key Federal Programs Supporting Older Adults and Caregivers Eliminated in Trump's FY 2018 Budget
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP; Administration on Community Living, HHS) provides one-on-one assistance and counseling to Medicare beneficiaries whose complex needs require more help than is provided by 1-800-Medicare or medicare.gov. SHIPs rely heavily on highly-trained volunteers and play a critical role in ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage and navigate the complicated and shifting landscape of Medicare choices. SHIP counseling assistance can save individual Medicare beneficiaries hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars every year. In FY 2016, the SHIP program received $52.1 million. With 10,000 boomers becoming eligible for Medicare every day, SHIP funding should be increased to reflect the increasing number of clients and complexity of Medicare.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP; DOL), which is Title V of the Older Americans Act and administered by the Department of Labor, would also be eliminated in the Trump budget. Losing this $434 million program - the only federal job training program focused on the unique needs of older workers -would immediately affect the approximately 70,000 age 55+ workers who receive skills training, job placement help, and subsidized community service jobs annually. Without SCSEP, these very low-income seniors would struggle to find the employment that they need to make ends meet. The tens of thousands of community agencies who host many SCSEP workers would also lose millions of hours of staff support, making it more difficult to achieve their missions to serve older adults, children and youth, and other members of their community.
Finally, the budget eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent agency which runs the long-standing, popular Senior Corps programs, specifically Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP. Senior Corps is the only national program able to place large numbers of senior volunteers in high-quality volunteer positions, generating 96 million hours of service to communities. When older volunteers provide vital services in their communities, it also helps those volunteers remain engaged in society. Given the health benefits of volunteering, this is a win-win for older adults and the communities they serve.