Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
There are a number of issues that are being considered by Congress and the state legislature before the end of the year that will have a huge impact on seniors. Below is urgent information on three of them, and what you can do right now.
Sequestration ( the fiscal cliff)
- Threatens federal funding for older adult programs which help seniors stay in their own homes.
- The Super Committee, comprised of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats from both the House and Senate, failed to come to a budget agreement, resulting in the automatic budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This is a package of spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect on Jan. 2, the first business day of 2013, if President Barack Obama and Congress cannot agree to an alternative measure to cut the deficit. $109 billion will come out of the federal budget every year for the next 10 years. Half, or about $54.7 billion, comes from defense spending, half will come from domestic programs, including Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly, which will see an $11 billion cut. The sequester cuts roughly 8 percent from all federal discretionary programs, from military spending to food safety to education.
- Click here for sequestration advocacy
Personal Property Tax Exemption
- State level bills that will reduce funding to local senior millages and state municipalities.
- Lt. Governor Calley has been working with the House of Representatives on an alternative plan to replace revenue lost to local entities from the exemption of industrial and commercial personal property tax. This differs from the earlier Senate passed version in that instead of relying on the annual appropriation process to replace the funds with expiring tax credits it proposes to shift funds from the state USE tax out of the general fund to the “Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Fund”. It would require a statewide vote to do so. Funds lost to the general fund would be made up in time from the expiring tax credits, with no indication of where general fund reductions would come from in the meantime.
- Of greater immediate concern to senior programs with millage funding is that the provisions for protecting “Voter-Approved” millages that were in the Senate bills are absent from the new proposal. The exemptions would begin in tax year 2014, and projected replacement revenue would not be available until 2016, and projected at only at 80% replacement, if voters approve the shift of funds from the USE tax.
- The new proposal allows local units of government to have a special assessment on industrial real property for police, fire, and ambulance services, that could help replace lost revenue up to 100%, but have no mechanism for other entities to make up lost funds.
- Click here for Personal Property Tax advocacy
Blue Cross Bills
- These bills will change how Blue Cross Blue Shield is structured and will put seniors and those with disabilities in jeopardy of losing affordable insurance coverage.
- Blue Cross Legacy Medigap policies are the most accessible and affordable policies in the state and must be maintained by keeping current statutory protections in place. If Legacy policies are discontinued, some beneficiaries will be forced to drop coverage altogether, or go on Medicare Advantage. Both have high out-of-pocket costs when you need health care. Some will spend their income and assets on health care bills and be forced to enroll in Medicaid.
- Younger people with disabilities going on Medicare have no legal protections in purchasing Medigap and rely on Blue Cross Legacy policies to supplement Medicare. People with End Stage Renal Disease, ALS, MS, and many other conditions depend on Blue Cross to sell them insurance.
- Click here for Blue Cross Bills Advocacy
From the Executive Director
In the world of politics the focus these days is on the upcoming elections. However, after November 6 attention will shift to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration of all discretionary federal funding. Older Americans Act funding, the primary funding source for area agencies on aging, will be impacted by the sequestration.
In 2011, Congress and President Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act to address the growing federal budget deficit. Under terms of the agreement, Republicans and Democrats must identify $1.2 trillion in budget savings and/or revenue increases over the next ten years to reduce the federal deficit. Both parties must come to an agreement by the end of this calendar year.
If no agreement is reached, then all discretionary federal funding will be sequestered. That means an 8.4% across-the-board cut in defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Older Americans Act funding will be among the many, many programs to be reduced. Between $4-5 million in annual Older Americans Act funding will be lost to Michigan. The AAAWM region would lose about $350,000 which currently provides congregate meals, home delivered meals, and in-home services. In Michigan, the cuts will deny 6,000 seniors nutritional meals, including 2,500 frail homebound seniors getting meals-on-wheels.
An 8.4% funding cut will make it harder for low income older adults to stay in their own home and out of a more expensive nursing home. In the long run, taxpayers will have to pay more as an increasing number of individuals qualify for Medicaid.
This all comes at a time when senior millage funding across Michigan is declining due to decreasing property values. And the number of older adults in need of in-home assistance is growing. The number of older adults in Michigan grew by more than 20% over the past ten years. That trend will accelerate over the next ten years. Consequently, demand for services and waiting lists will continue to increase.
Please contact U. S. Senator Levin, Senator Stabenow, and your U.S Congressman by phone, fax, or email urging them to find common ground and to reach a budget deficit agreement before the end of the year. Tell them how the sequester will devastate Older Americans Act programs and the negative impact on the health and independence of older Michiganians.