Home Politics Despite budget cuts, some optimism from eldercare programs

Despite budget cuts, some optimism from eldercare programs

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Organizations that serve Ohio’s elderly population are standing strong in the face of sequestration.

Despite budget cuts across the board on the national level, LifeCare Alliance CEO Chuck Gehring has said that there are no plans to stop serving Meals on Wheels to any of the program’s many clients.

LifeCare, the agency which runs Meals on Wheels in Franklin, Marion and Madison counties, is set to lose $250,000 a year—or the equivalent of 100,000 meals—due to sequestration, the nickname for the budget impasse that forced Congress to cut spending from certain federal programs. Gehring said he is already brainstorming ways that his organization can stay on its feet.

“I either have to cut costs, which is almost always labor here. I can’t cut food costs …  I’ve got to bring in more revenue,” Gehring said in an article on LifeCare’s website.

LifeCare isn’t alone in its efforts to improve the situation for the elderly population. On the national level, the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) is striving to promote proper care for the elderly by offering tips such as, “Consider the needs of older adults” and “Support a strong elder care workforce.”

According to research by the EWA, health resources and service administration could be severely affected by the cuts: “A five percent cut to these programs equals an estimated $1.77 million cut for FY2013. Cuts of this magnitude will have a severe negative impact on eldercare workforce training, with as many as 6,070 fewer professionals with geriatric training to serve the millions of older adults who need geriatric care now and in the future.”

Activism from groups such as the EWA is needed more than ever now that the sequester is beginning to take effect. Older adults suffering from cancer have been hit hard in recent months, as oncology clinics have denying chemotherapy treatment to Medicare patients who need it.

The Washington Post reported in April that one New York-based association of oncology clinics “decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients” after an emergency meeting to discuss the changes.

Overall, according to ElderLawAnswers.com, Medicare benefits overall will not change, but “there could be more crowded waiting rooms and fewer practitioners participating in the program because payments to Medicare providers will be cut by two percent across-the-board.”

Recipients of Medicaid will also be largely unaffected by the cuts, as no reductions have been planned for the program. In fact, here in Ohio, Medicaid coverage could potentially help even more people in need over the next few years.

Gov. John Kasich, despite opposition from his Republican colleagues in the state legislature, has been advocating Medicaid expansion for most of 2013. If supporters of the governor’s plan are successful, the issue could find itself on the statewide ballot next year.

Kasich himself is optimistic about the expansion plan, even in a time of budget cuts across the board.

“I believe it’s a matter of life and death,” the governor told the Cincinnati Enquirer in July. “It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when. This is inevitable.”

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