What the Sequester’s Cuts Will Mean for Seniors

As a consequence of congressional gridlock, $85 billion in
automatic, across-the-board spending cuts are starting to take
effect. We’ve heard the dire warnings about the impact: air travel delays,
70,000 children forced out of Head Start, cutbacks in food inspections, understaffed
fire departments, 700,000 fewer jobs created . . .  the list goes on.

How will programs that seniors rely on be affected? The good
news is that big chunks of the budget are exempt from the sequester’s cuts,
including Social Security, Medicaid, and veterans’ programs.  But while
there will be no change in benefits for these programs, the federal workforce
that administers them will be slashed, leading to delays and frustration. 

In the case of Social Security, for example, visitors to field offices or
callers to the program’s 800-number will have longer waits, and some offices
may close altogether.  Checks for first-time Social Security beneficiaries
will take longer to arrive and the backlog of Social Security disability claims
will start ballooning again.  

Medicare benefits will not change either, but there could be
more crowded waiting rooms and fewer practitioners participating in the program
because payments to Medicare providers will be cut by 2 percent
across-the-board.  Doctors and hospitals say the Medicare reductions will cost
their industries more than 200,000 jobs this year alone.  The 2 percent
cut for doctors follows a series of previous reductions, which may translate
into more doctors refusing to take Medicare patients.

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