Reagan cutbacks and elderly: local officials see problems
President Reagan, and many of those in charge of various programs for the elderly at the state and local level, may be on a political collision course over his proposed fiscal 1984 federal budget.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The administration has given assurances that the new spending plan, which begins Oct. 1, will leave the nation's growing senior citizen population, especially the most needy, better off. But budget critics are convinced not enough funds will be provided.
Of particular concern are not only the potential impact of the proposed six-month delays in the cost-of-living increases on social security, supplemental security income (SSI), and food stamps, but also various changes in eligibility requirements involving both medicare and medicaid.
Without major changes, President Reagan's proposed $848.5 billion budget ''can't help but cause tragedy for many elderly persons,'' says Lou Glasse, director of New York State's Department on Aging.
Mrs. Glasse, whose state has 2.2 million residents 65 or older, holds that proposed cuts in funding for medicare, medicaid, SSI, food stamps, energy assistance, meals, and other programs will make it harder for the elderly to get by. Particularly hard hit, she warns, would be the older Americans, including some 700,000 in New York, whose only income is from social security and who are already facing a possible six-month delay in cost-of-living adjustments.
Reagan administration officials vehemently deny that their proposals, except for the delays in social security and food-stamp cost-of-living increases, would have more than a minuscule impact on the elderly.
''Don't confuse the trees for the forest,'' cautions Edwin Dale, a spokesman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget, adding that ''all basic benefits are retained.'' Some $234 billion, 27.6 percent of the total budget, would be for programs serving the senior citizens, he emphasizes. According to Mr. Dale, this compares with an estimated $218.5 billion, or 27.1 percent of the budget in fiscal 1983 that ends Sept. 30.
Somewhat more optimistic than New York's Mrs. Glasse are officials in the Department of Aging in Pennsylvania. They note that a substantial portion of revenues from their state lottery goes to programs for older citizens. Some $186 million of these funds were so committed in the current fiscal year, and ''we hope more will be made available in fiscal 1984,'' says Hugh Jones, the state elder affairs agency's deputy director.
Although declining to speculate what the dollar impact of the Reagan budget might be on the elderly, especially the poor and needy, Martin Corry, legislative representative for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), suggests ''it would be significant.''
Besides the decrease in income through the proposed six-month delay in both social security and SSI cost-of-living increases, which ''is bound to cause hardship for many, there would be a dramatic increase in out-of-pocket costs for health care,'' he warns.
The proposal that medicare-covered seniors be required to pay 8 percent of the hospital costs for the first 28 days and 5 percent thereafter up to the 60th day, instead of having to foot only the bill for the first day, would be quite burdensome, Mr. Corry says.Federal budget analysts for the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors' Association also conclude that domestic spending proposals would have an adverse impact on senior citizens.