Sunday, March 10, 2013

Federal Sequestration: Cutting some programs won't result in real savings

Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments

by Sallie Clark, 2011-2012 Chair of Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and Guy Dutra-Silveira, Director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging

The headlines are full of dire warnings about what will happen if sequestration — across-the-board spending cuts to domestic and military programs — is triggered by the failure of Congress and the President to reach a bipartisan budget compromise by the end of the year. With the 11th hour fast approaching, we can only hope that in the scramble to crunch the numbers, our leaders don’t lose sight of the fact that every program cut will not necessarily produce a cost-savings.

Cuts in discretionary spending for programs that support our seniors and caregivers will actually drive up spending on the flip side. Mandated under the Older Americans Act, these vital programs include services for people over the age of 60 that enable them to continue to live largely independent lives within their communities.

Services provided include home-delivered meals, transportation, help with home safety improvements and classes designed to promote health. With the help of these resources, older Americans are able to take care of themselves longer, and in so doing, delay or eliminate the need to live in costly nursing homes or assisted living facilities. This is a cost that often falls to federal and state government — and thereby the taxpayer — through the Medicaid program. Let’s make fiscal sense. Continue to fund programs that allow an aging parent or friend to live an independent life at a relatively affordable cost of $200-$700 per month, rather than spending between $2,000-$7,000 per month for care in a facility.

Some would say that it is the responsibility of families and friends to shoulder the burden alone. But as anyone who has served as a caregiver for an aging parent knows too well, this care comes at a great personal and monetary cost. Caregivers— particularly women — provide over 75 percent of care giving support in the United States. In 2007, the estimated economic value of family caregivers’ unpaid contributions was at least $375 billion. Unpaid caregivers personally lose about $659,139 over a lifetime: $25,494 in Social Security benefits; $67,202 in pension benefits; and $566,443 in forgone wages. This heavy financial burden impacts their families, their children, the business for whom they work and the amount of taxes they pay.

Given the crucial role that families and friends play in caring for seniors, programs that provide caregiver support are essential to keep these individuals healthy, engaged and effective. These services make it possible for a family member to run personal errands, attend their child’s sporting event, or receive counseling to help them make informed decisions about a parent’s medical or financial future. In other words, these programs allow caregivers to continue to thrive in their multiple roles as parents, spouses, friends and employees.

Bottom-line, these programs don’t just support the elderly and the family and friends who given them care. They are strategically designed using a common sense approach which reduces both private and public health care costs while increasing the quality of life for seniors.

View the 2012 PPACG Annual Report YouTube Video (below) to learn more about the many ways in which the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments impacts our community.