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5 ways Congress can help seniors

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Posted: 4 pm ET

The National Council on Aging, a nonprofit whose mission is making life better for older Americans, has outlined five steps it would like to see Congress take to help people in  retirement -- especially those who get by on low incomes. Marci Phillips, director of public policy and advocacy for the council, gives highest priority to the first two of these five issues:

Continue to pay Part B Medicare premiums for low-income recipients. Medicare automatically deducts the Part B Medicare premium of $104 a month from the Social Security checks of older people with incomes greater than $11,670 who are single, and married seniors with incomes greater than $15,730. People earning below that level are eligible for Medicaid and don't pay Part B premiums or deductibles. There has been a federal program for a number of years that pays Part B premiums and deductibles for people earning  between 120 percent and 135 percent of the poverty level. If that program isn't renewed -- and Phillips says it may not be because it has been linked to other programs unlikely to pass -- people earning at this level will face an income loss that puts their total spendable income at just about $9,000 a year. "We need a permanent fix," she says.

Reauthorize and strengthen the Older Americans Act. This law provides money for Meals on Wheels and other food programs, job training, senior centers, caregiver support and senior buses and other transportation programs. It's not glamorous stuff, but it keeps people who otherwise would be in deep trouble living reasonably comfortably in their homes. The 2014 budget provided money for a new program aimed at preventing falls, funds for helping people with Alzheimer's and restored some money for nutrition programs that were cut by the sequester. The council says that more money is needed to modernize senior centers, provide preventive care and reduce elder abuse.

Restore money for food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helps nearly 4 million older adults pay for food. The recently passed Farm Bill increases funding for food banks, makes the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for seniors only and adds a food delivery program for older people -- all good things. But it also cuts $8.6 billion in funding over the next decade. The situation hits people in some states harder than others.

Fix long-term care. The number of older people who need long-term care is expected to double as boomers age. Current law places a big burden on family caregivers and requires seniors to impoverish themselves before they can get help from Medicaid. The council believes that long-term care insurance should be made more affordable and available to people with pre-existing conditions. It also believes that there should be more money available to teach people why their retirement planning should include a way to pay for long-term care.

Pass immigration reform. About 20 percent of caregivers are immigrants, so the council thinks that allowing more immigrants to come here and stay would expand the caregiving workforce. It also believes that immigration reform would increase the number of people who contribute to Social Security and Medicare, and that would give these pay-as-you-go programs more money.

In considering this legislation, Congress should remember that 25 percent of voters are 65 and older.

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52 Comments
KEITH LAU
February 08, 2014 at 11:54 pm

YOU REPUBLICAN MFrs SUCK

KEITH LAU
February 08, 2014 at 11:52 pm

DEPORT THE FUGIN REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN

lat
February 08, 2014 at 10:45 pm

this is bs.

pokey
February 08, 2014 at 10:04 pm

The best thing Congress can do to help anyone is to resign.

Art
February 08, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Congress has done nothing for the past six years YET they give themselves raises! It's sad when people work fulltime at Wal-Mart and still qualify for food stamps. It's not a handout to raise the minimum wage....it's the right thing to do!

t.w. rezek
February 08, 2014 at 6:57 pm

looks like moderator is picking&choosing.people,you are being played by the media&the leftist's in wash. dems&some repubs

fred west
February 08, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Congress is good a finding someone else money and figuring out how to spend it. I'm so sick of people getting food stamps that's my money. These same people exit the store and drive away in a fancy new car. I pay full price at the store and don't have a fancy new car or a cell phone. I see my taxes buying schools lunches for children of people who are not citizens. When I was a kid I brought my own lunch to school and didn't look for the government to pay for it. Term limits for congress, that they will only have short time in office and maybe will do something other then trying to stay in office.

Bob Reasonal
February 08, 2014 at 5:28 pm

If the democrats were not driving us to the brink of bankruptcy (Common the republicans can NOT be blamed forever) we could help out the seniors. How about worrying about us 1/4 the amount as people that are here illegally. While I am all for good healthcare this system is a sham and all who promote it get what they deserve in the future which is less in their pockets and more for entitlements. Doesn't anyone hold our government to be accountable anymore? Wake up democrats and stop listening to the yellow journalism and think for yourselves. Who goes out and buys another house when their first one is in bankruptcy? Stop spending money and putting focus on immigration and other diversions. Start with a balanced budget like the rest of us.

P SPANN
February 08, 2014 at 5:10 pm

I WENT TO WORK AT 14YEARS OLD, I DID HAVE THE ABILITY TO GO TO SCHOOL AND BECOME A WORKING ADULT. MY CONCERN IS THAT I HAVE BEEN PAYING SSI FOR 65 YEARS AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE REASON FOR THE LOW RETURN ON THAT PAY DEDUCTIION,I KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT NEVER WORKED AND THEY DRAW THE LIKE AMOUNT AS I DO. MEDICAL HA S JUST SENT SENIORS IN BANKRUPTCY (IT DID MY HUSBAND AND I) AT THE CURRENT TIME I CANOT GO TO THE DOCTOR BECAUSE I OWE THEM MONEY AND THEY WILL NOT SEE ME. I HAVE 2 GRANDSONS THAT HAVE SERVED THEIR COUNTRY WELL(1DEPLOYED 5 TIMES) THE FUTRUE FOR THEM IS NOT WHAT THESE YOUNG FATHERS AND SONS DESERVE.

GJones
February 08, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Those Idiots in Congress are more interested in helping themselves and the super rich then the people that elected them, even cut the veterans 24 billion and would like to do away with the VA period.

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