Written by Mary Schaefer, executive director of the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging
Missouri advocates are needed for seniors and senior programs. This past session of the Missouri legislature has clearly shown the need for our legislators and public officials to hear from their constituents about the value of seniors and the services that support seniors living and contributing in their communities.
Based on 2015 population estimates, there are 1,329,828 persons over age 60 in Missouri, representing 21.9% of our state’s population. There is a wide range in percentage of older adults in each county, ranging from 11.2% in Pulaski County to 41% in Hickory County. While there are many seniors who are not in financial need, there are 370,586 persons or 30% of seniors in Missouri who rely on Social Security for 90% of their annual income. With the average annual Social Security benefit equaling $16,051, there is a significant gap between what older Missourians receive and the amount the average single older adult needs to meet basic needs in Missouri—$18,672 for homeowners without mortgage, $20,952 for renters, and $27,108 for homeowners with a mortgage.
In order to balance the Missouri state budget, major cuts were proposed in programs for low income seniors and those with disabilities. Proposed cuts included eliminating Circuit Breaker rebates for low-income renters, raising the points level for nursing home coverage from 21 points to 24 or 27 points, and limiting who can receive coverage through Missouri RX to only adults who are dual eligible (i.e., receive both Medicare and Medicaid). The Missouri RX proposal passed, leaving 60,000 seniors without coverage as of August 2017. Both the Circuit Breaker credits and nursing home coverage were preserved by creating a Senior Citizens Protection Fund for FY2018 that will use unspent funds from selected programs and departments. On the national level, the Department of Health and Human Services, which provides funding for Older Americans’ Act Services has told services, funded by the act (e.g., Area Agencies on Aging) to prepare for an 18% cut; a devastating decrease for services already working on limited resources.
There seems to be a significant lack of awareness of the impact that such cuts would have on seniors who receive benefits from these programs and those who help support them. Let’s make sure we use our democratic process and contact our legislators on a regular basis to keep them informed and aware of the issues facing seniors in our state and what our programs do to help.
To identify your State Senator and Representative, please visit http://www.senate.mo.gov and click on “Legislator Look Up.”
For more information on advocacy for seniors, contact Mid-East Area Agency on Aging at 636-207-4211 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mid-East serves four counties in Missouri: St. Louis, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Charles Counties. To find the AAA closest to where you live, go to https://www.n4a.org/.