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Aging Organizations Brace for Federal Budget Battles
The election is the top news today, but soon after Nov. 6, the focus in Washington will shift dramatically to the federal budget.
In a “lame duck” session, likely Nov. 13 - Dec. 21, Congress will consider decisions of great concern to seniors and those who serve them.
These include possible across-the-board cuts under a sequester, several tax issues, and an "extenders" package of expiring health provisions.
What a Sequester Could Mean...
If Congress does not come up with a serious, bipartisan plan to reduce the federal deficit by the end of the year, the nation will face drastic, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts starting Jan. 2.
These cuts are known as a sequester, and they would include cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, such as the Older Americans Act (OAA). Social Security and Medicaid are exempt from cuts, and Medicare providers would see a 2% cut in reimbursement rates.
NCOA chairs the 68-member Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), a coalition of national groups that is gearing up for the debate.
LCAO has developed a Sequestration Issue Brief analyzing what the automatic cuts of approximately 8% and other proposals to replace the sequester will mean for programs that serve vulnerable older adults.
It also has adopted a set of Federal Budget Principles to help guide the broader debate on what might be included in a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction, specifically around issues and programs of concern to older Americans.
What’s at Stake for Senior Programs
According to the LCAO, if Congress allows the sequester to go into effect on Jan. 2, the resulting $54.5 billion in non-defense discretionary cuts in FY13 will have devastating effects on programs that maintain older adults' independence, health, and well-being.
LCAO estimates that, among other things, a sequester would result in:
- 17 million fewer congregate and home-delivered meals for hungry seniors
- 1.9 million fewer senior transportation rides to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other needs
- 1.5 million fewer people receiving personal care services such as in-home help with bathing and dressing
- 290,000 senior households losing their heat due to a $285 million cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- 6,400 fewer unemployed low-income older adults getting hired and paid because of cuts to the Senior Community Service Employment Program
LCAO's Federal Budget Principles
LCAO is advocating that Congress work to "reduce the deficit over time through a balanced approach that includes budget savings from increases in revenue and thoughtful, targeted reductions in spending when and where necessary, without increasing poverty or income inequality."
LCAO is recommending a series of principles to guide advocacy efforts over the next year on what could be historic reductions in funding for senior programs. Among them are:
SOURCE: National Council on Aging (NCOA)
- Including an overarching goal of building economic security for older Americans and their families
- Adopting a balanced approach, including revenue raisers and savings from mandatory and discretionary spending
- Protecting low-income Americans and taking no actions that increase economic vulnerability, hunger, or poverty
- Addressing the solvency of Social Security independently, as it does not contribute to the federal deficit
- Maintaining the essential structure and integrity of Medicare and Medicaid