Five Ways for Congress to Back Retirees
In 2010, about 26 percent of people 65 and older had individual incomes that were between the federal poverty level — $10,458 — and 200 percent of the poverty level — $20,916. Another 9 percent had incomes below the federal poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That adds up to more than a third of people 65 and older living on less money than it takes to enjoy a secure retirement. The National Council on Aging points to five actions it believes Congress ought to take — most of them low-cost — to support older Americans and ensure that more of them have health and economic security. Protect Medicare beneficiaries with modest incomes. One of the biggest challenges for lower-income people is paying Part B Medicare premiums and other out-of-pocket health care costs. The Medicare Qualified Individual program (QI) helps people with incomes between 120 percent and 135 percent of the poverty level — $14,000 to $15,750 per year — pay their Part B premiums — not co-pays or deductibles. It is a modest program that saves lots of people with limited incomes at least $1,200 a year. The program expires March 31. Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the National Council on Aging, says persuading Congress to continue this program and fund it permanently is a vital step. “If people don’t get this kind of help, they don’t have access to a doctor,” Bedlin says. Steps include:
- Renew the Older Americans and the Elder Justice Acts.
- Increase funding for transportation and housing services.
- Reform Medicaid’s long-term care provisions.
- Fund chronic disease management programs.
Bedlin urges seniors to talk to their congressional representatives. “Now is the time to strengthen and expand aging services to meet the needs of all seniors, but especially those who are struggling. There are actually a lot of tax dollars that could be saved by modernizing and making existing programs more effective,” he says.