Joint Statement: President’s Budget Targets Key Health Care Programs; Millions of Older Adults and People with Disabilities at Risk if Implemented, Advocates Warn

By February 14, 2018PRESS RELEASE

Washington, DC—The President’s annual budget request is, at its core, a statement of values. It is incredibly troubling then, that President Trump’s budget blueprint for FY 2019, submitted this week, again prioritizes deep cuts to programs on which older adults and people with disabilities rely, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

The President’s FY 2019 budget breaks a key campaign promise not to cut Medicare by proposing more than $490 billion in cuts over 10 years. If these changes were implemented, people with Medicare would face additional, significant barriers to accessing care. Not only would it curtail beneficiary appeal rights and cause some to progress through the prescription drug “donut hole” more slowly, it would also expand prior authorization in traditional Medicare and incentivize health care providers to stint on care for those with ongoing, chronic conditions. Through these and other changes, the budget request largely fails people with Medicare and their families. While the budget does recognize the problems of Medicare beneficiaries with the highest prescription drug costs, it does nothing to address the underlying problem of exorbitant drug prices, and would actually worsen affordability for many Medicare beneficiaries, half of whom live on less than $26,000 a year. In short, people with Medicare would be worse off if this budget were implemented.

The budget would also be particularly devastating for those who rely on both Medicaid and Medicare for their health and long-term care needs. The proposed changes would end Medicaid as we know it by cutting over $1.4 trillion in the next decade and transforming the program into a block grant or per capita cap system. Gutting Medicaid would lead to the rationing of care and could force many low-income seniors and people with disabilities out of their homes and into more costly institutional settings. In addition, the proposed policies would endanger Medicaid coverage for struggling families by imposing punitive coverage restrictions and administrative barriers such as work requirements and asset tests.

Further, the budget renews the administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something similar to last year’s failed Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson plan. That approach was widely reviled by the American people, in large part because it would have ended health coverage for millions and restricted access for millions more. Whether in the President’s budget or a stand-alone bill, any plan that would reduce coverage, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, or make devastating cuts to Medicaid was and always will be unacceptable.

This budget is full of damaging policies that would make it harder for older adults, people with disabilities, and working families to meet their basic needs. We urge Congress and the administration to reject this flawed budget, and to instead pursue bipartisan solutions that prioritize the health and well-being of all Americans.

Justice in Aging (www.justiceinaging.org) is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy (www.medicareadvocacy.org) is a national, nonprofit, non-partisan law organization that works to advance access to comprehensive Medicare coverage and quality health care for older people and people with disabilities through legal analysis, education, and advocacy.

The Medicare Rights Center (www.medicarerights.org) is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

About Vanessa Barrington