As January 1 quickly approaches, LeadingAge, a not-for-profit association for aging services providers with more than 6,000 members nationwide, is urging members of Congress to act before the end of the year to prevent automatic spending reductions, known as sequestration.
LeadingAge fully recognizes the seriousness of the federal budget situation and the need to bring the budget back toward a healthy balance between spending and revenues. But if sequestration occurs, a "fiscal cliff" will mean that federal funding for aging services programs will be cut substantially.
According to a report by the Office of Management and Budget, sequestration will have the following impact on aging services:
-- The report estimates the cut in Section 202 housing funding at 8.2%, amounting to $31 million.
-- Section 811 housing for people with disabilities would get an 8.2% cut, amounting to $14 million.
-- The Administration on Aging, which manages Older Americans Act programs, would get an 8.2% cut, amounting to $121 million.
-- Medicare reimbursement to health care providers will be cut by 2%. These cuts will amount to an $11 billion cut in Medicare spending.
-- Medicaid is one of the few federal programs that would be exempt from the automatic spending cuts.
The people that LeadingAge serves depend on Medicare, Medicaid, federal affordable housing programs, and Older Americans Act home- and community-based services for essential long-term care, shelter, nutrition and other services that enable them to age with dignity.
Shifting costs from the federal to state governments or from government programs to consumers and health care providers is not the answer to the federal budget dilemma. Policymakers must address the root causes of excessive spending in ways that will effectively reduce its growth.
Additionally, LeadingAge is concerned about proposals to address the fiscal cliff that include restrictions on income tax deductions, including the one for charitable contributions. LeadingAge members rely heavily on private philanthropy to fund the services they provide for elders.
"The federal budget situation is dire and the need for shared sacrifice to address it is clear," says Larry Minnix, president and CEO of LeadingAge. "However, we must not balance the nation's checkbook on the backs of vulnerable seniors."
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