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Let’s talk turkey

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So this sequestration, a part of the fiscal cliff, only affects the “entitlement programs”, it doesn’t affect the programs that support seniors, like transportation, home delivered meals, senior centers and protection from abuse!?  Right?

Wrong. It will have a devastating affect these programs.
If Congress allows sequestration to go into effect on January 2, 2013, the resulting $54.5 billion in non-defense discretionary (NDD) cuts in FY 2013 will have alarming effects on programs that maintain older adults’ independence, health and well-being.
Moving ahead with sequestration allows our representatives the opportunity not to make decisions about which programs provide the greatest return on investment and reflect the current and future needs of our great country.

We know that supporting older adults in their own homes with home health care, home delivered meals and transportation to and from health care costs about one third the annual cost of a long term care facility. And, home is where, when asked, the seniors want to live out their remaining days. Cuts like those being presented also result in added burden and financial strains to the caregiver.

In Thanksgiving tradition, let’s just talk turkey here! Speaking about meals alone, in Kentucky this sequestration will result in an estimated loss of 320,341 meals annually. This is estimated to leave 3,411 elderly people without meals for one year. To compound this reduction in funding, there is currently a “waiting list” of seniors who need and wish to have a home delivered meal, but, because of limited funding, will wait from one to twelve months to receive them.

There is currently not enough funding to cover the need. Cutting current levels of funding will leave thousands of seniors hungry and may force them into long-term care facilities.
So, is there a compromise?

Well, yes there is. Congress could take a more surgical approach to the proposed across that board cutting that will take place this coming January. A surgical approach that will result in extending the programs like Senior Services of Northern Kentucky’s “Meals on Wheels” home delivered meal program. Congress could make choices based on return on investment and responding to the needs of our country. Congress could also establish “means testing” and “sliding scale fee for service” for programs paid for by the Older Americans Act (OAA). Currently, these programs, which were established under the 1965 Older American Act, require that the recipient not be charged for the meal, the ride, the enjoyment at a senior center, the housekeeping or the care given in their own home. These programs are currently not “means tested”, and never have been! Maybe they should be. “Means testing” combined with a “sliding scale fees for service” could result in more truly needy seniors being served and a reduction in the number of people on the “waiting list”.

Call your Congressional Representative or United States Senator today and tell them: “There are solutions that will not result in the elimination of over 320,000 meals to Kentucky’s seniors. Solutions that may, in fact, result in a greater number of our seniors being able to be served!”

Ken Rechtin is the Interim Executive Director of Senior Services of Northern Kentucky. Senior Services of Northern Kentucky is a 501c3 not for profit serving the needs of the Northern Kentucky aging population for 50 years. www.seniorservicesnky.org.