Sequestration cuts will hurt seniors

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Washington sequestration cuts are now expected to take away an estimated $1.5 million from senior programs in South Carolina. 
This is the type of situation that occurs as across-the-board cuts combine the good with the bad.  Hurt the most in this state will be the funding that provides services for sick and homebound senior citizens. Such home and community-based services commonly include a meal a day delivered to senior citizens and vulnerable adults who are unable to care for themselves. 
Oftentimes, volunteers who deliver these meals may be the only contact that some of the recipients have with the outside world. These are people who have worked all of their life and simply need a helping hand in their golden years. They never busted the budget, yet they're the ones getting busted by the lack of leadership in Washington.
Yes, we need to stop the deficit spending. Washington needs to balance its budget like we do in South Carolina. However, to balance it on the backs of people who have paid their dues and helped this country move forward over the decades is unacceptable. 
Let me paint a picture of reality. South Carolina has one of the fastest growing senior populations in the nation. 
Currently, our senior population is over 900,000 and is projected to nearly double by the year 2030.  Even without factoring in the discussion over recent sequestration cuts in Washington, our state doesn't have enough money to cover the people who currently need services.  Over 8,000 are on a waiting list.  
As my office continues to ask the South Carolina General Assembly to do more with state resources in order to close this gap, blows by the federal government are preventing us from reaching our goal of helping more seniors and vulnerable adults. These are people who need a meal a day or a trip to a doctor's office so that they can avoid the transition to a more expensive Medicaid nursing bed. 
They are not looking for handouts - just a helping hand - so that they can remain independent and on their own.  The evidence is overwhelming that home and community-based services are both cost-efficient and the most productive way for us to meet the challenge at hand. 
To see Washington going in the opposite direction because of their failure to control their spending is just flat wrong.  It shortchanges these folks who cannot help themselves. 
Washington should help itself and this country by steering our nation forward, targeting the cuts based on merit rather than jeopardizing the future of our hard-working citizens. 
Runaway spending has to stop.  Our leaders in Washington must learn to prioritize, which means making difficult choices in order to save taxpayer dollars while keeping beneficial programs afloat. 
These cuts on senior services will slash straight through a program that will help our state and nation save money and avoid a future human calamity. Our home and community-based programs have been proven effective, and they cost our state 40 times less money than a Medicaid nursing home bed. 
Yet, our leaders in Washington continue to dump millions more of our tax dollars into the Medicaid program without reform while a program that delays people from Medicaid gets hacked.  Whether or not our state accepts the federal funding, the massive Medicaid program as currently structured is not sustainable over the long term.
Regardless of which side of the issue you find yourself, across-the-board cuts equate to poor politics - not good policy.  Congress cannot remain on the same path year after year while expecting different results. 
Until leaders in Washington begin to focus on solving our nation's lingering problems instead of worrying about the next election, the process will continue to have damaging and lasting effects. 
Threatening essential services for seniors and vulnerable adults in our state is not only dangerous, but it is also irresponsible. 

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