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The Constant, Wearying Assault on Elders

Posted Mar 20 2012 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif On Sunday, while I was reading and gathering information for yesterday's post about the AARP secret meeting on Social Security, I could feel how tired I am of it all.

“All” being the necessity to maintain a constant watch on politicians and their corporate overlords together with exhausting and usually confusing details of our financial and medical lives.

You can depend on current elected officials, local and national, to have something new almost every week that will negatively affect elders. Maybe this week a legislator wants to cut Medicaid or it could be funds for the local Meals on Wheels they propose slashing and sometimes what they do is just plain – well, there is no other word for it: evil.

Example: where I live, last fall the state, with no notice, suddenly ended a property tax deferral program for elders that had been in place for many years – and they announced it just one month before the tax was due and payable – as though anyone could come up with thousands of dollars in 30 days.

Things like that are just the local guys. Anyone who hangs out here knows how often members of the U.S Congress, some federally appointed commissions (and at least one president) have done their best to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Actually, they never stop. Today, for example, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, releases this year's federal budget proposal. He even made a YouTube video ahead of today to promote it. Here it is – be sure to swallow your coffee first:

It is expected (as I write this on Monday) by those who know such things that the new Ryan budget will include a revised attempt to privatize Medicare with a voucher program along the lines of the joint proposal he made with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden last December.

According to one preliminary report on Ryan's new budget, this Medicare provision

“...would still give future seniors a fixed amount, but it would allow them to use the money to stay in the traditional Medicare program. They would have to pay out of pocket if the costs of the program were higher than the government subsidy - or buy an alternative plan.

“...[according to some experts,] most seniors under his plan would face considerably higher costs for health care in some cases many thousands of dollars a year.”

As though the majority of elders can pay that. In 2008, the median income of people age 65 and older was, from all sources, $18,208. For 40.6% of the age group that year, Social Security provided more than 90 percent of income.

Aside from the cost which, as the proposal apparently anticipates, average Medicare beneficiaries would not be able to afford, there would be the annual window of opportunity to change insurers.

You already know what that looks like - we do it for Medicare Supplemental policies or Medicare Advantage policies and/or Part D – prescription drug policies every year.

I'm exhausted thinking about it: dozen of plans each year with different premiums, deductibles, co-pays, networks, etc. all to be weighed against one another as we try to sort out the best coverage we can afford.

Due to the kinds of work I did for 50 years, I have decades of experience at sorting large amounts of information and making sense of it. In addition, as far as I can tell, I still have all my faculties.

So although I dislike the tangled process of deciding if I need or want a new Supplemental or drug policy each year, I know I can do it. But will I always be this sharp? Maybe not. And lots of old people can't do this either at all or without help.

Yet every proposal for Medicare creates increased calculations and paperwork for elders, much of it so poorly explained that I'm pretty sure the people who write the regulations don't get it.

None of what I've mentioned includes the details of bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards and other financial dealings that need constant attention in an era where those corporations are eager to make “mistakes.”

Is there any wonder I'm exhausted. There is no other way to describe this except “assault” - the paperwork and eternal vigilance against the nonstop attacks on programs we spent a lifetime paying into for our old age.

I get so weary of it all and just want some peace and rest.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: The Monster in My Garden

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