Trump Budget Would Hurt Older Americans

Kathleen Romig, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

[CBPP] Older Americans are among the many groups that President Trump’s proposed 2021 budget would seriously harm. While running for president, Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, which serve tens of millions of seniors — and he made a similar promise at his State of the Union just last week. Nevertheless, his budget calls for cutting Social Security and Medicaid as well as cutting or eliminating other critical supports for older Americans, many of them struggling to get by. And that’s even as he proposed to extend the 2017 tax law and he plans even more tax cuts, which would provide a bonanza to the most well-off Americans and profitable corporations.

Here are some details of the harm to older Americans:

  • Medicaid cuts would threaten many of their health care. Medicaid provides essential care for 7 million seniors, including nursing home care, long-term services and supports, and other medical care and supportive services that Medicare doesn’t cover, which help many low-income seniors stay independent and healthy. The President’s budget would cut Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium tax credits that help low- and moderate-income people afford coverage, by $1 trillion over ten years, with cuts growing deeper over time. The budget doesn’t explain how the Administration would implement much of these cuts, but it specifically calls for ending the enhanced federal funding for states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. That would almost certainly lead states to end coverage for most of the more than 12 million people who have gained coverage through the expansion — including millions of adults aged 50 to 64. Other proposals in the budget would cut Medicaid and threaten access to care for older adults, including requiring all states to take coverage away from adult Medicaid enrollees who don’t meet work requirements, which would threaten coverage for millions of older adults. The budget would also make it harder for seniors to qualify for Medicaid without selling their homes.
  • Deep SNAP (food stamp) cuts would cause more elderly people to struggle to afford food. SNAP households with an elderly member receive an average of $121 in benefits each month to help them pay for groceries. For seniors, SNAP participation is linked with reduced nursing home admissions and hospitalization and less frequent skipping of needed medicines, as we’ve detailed. The budget would cut $182 billion, nearly 30 percent, from SNAP over the next decade. The biggest cut would be from radically restructuring SNAP to eliminate about 40 percent of SNAP benefits and use some of the savings to give households a “Harvest Box” of non-perishable foods. This approach would be in lieu of the food that households would otherwise choose to buy with their SNAP benefits. The budget would also end SNAP’s minimum monthly benefit for households with one or two people (currently $16), which mainly goes to low-income seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for a benefit of $15 or less. This change would affect 1 to 2 million people, most of whom would lose benefits altogether. The budget would also raise the age for individuals to be considered “elderly” from 60 to 65, meaning those aged 60 through 64 would no longer qualify under certain eligibility rules and program flexibilities designed to reduce administrative burdens and ease access for vulnerable seniors.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cuts would hit many older Americans. Workers pay into Social Security to protect themselves and their families if they retire, become disabled, or die leaving family members to support. Most SSDI beneficiaries — nearly 6 million — are 55 or older and can’t keep working until their full Social Security retirement age due to serious illness or injury. Though the President has repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security, his budget cuts SSDI by tens of billions of dollars.
  • Rental and heating assistance cuts would hurt thousands of seniors. The budget’s deep cuts in rental assistance for low-income families would leave 160,000 fewer households, nearly 45,000 of which include seniors, without housing vouchers that they could use to afford to pay rent. The budget would also eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income people pay their heating and cooling bills. Over 40 percent of LIHEAP-eligible households include at least one person aged 60 or older.
  • The budget eliminates several programs providing social and community services to older people. One is the Social Services Block Grant, which helps states meet the specialized needs of their most vulnerable populations, such as helping seniors stay in their homes, providing Meals on Wheels, and preventing elder abuse. Another is the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal support to low-income seniors facing foreclosure, eviction, and elder abuse. Finally, the budget would eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which connects low-income, unemployed people aged 55 or older with part-time work each year.

Read more from CBPP: Trump Budget Round-up »

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