Medicare, Social Security cuts could increase poverty levels

Filed under: Business of Aging,Daily News,Health Care |

Cuts to Social Security and Medicare could increase poverty among older people in Colorado.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 15 percent of people over the age of 65 have incomes below the supplemental poverty level and 7 percent living in below the official Federal poverty threshold.

Supplemental poverty levels take into account expenses like payroll taxes, health care payments and work expenses, to create a more complex statistical picture, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That level is around $24,000 for a family with two children. The official poverty level is the amount of money a family of three would have to make to spend less than one-third of their income on food – and hasn’t been updated since 1964.

In 2012, more seniors were found to be living at the supplemental poverty level, 15.1 percent nationwide. According to the Census Bureau, medical expenses are the number one reason for living at the supplemental poverty level, followed by work expenses like transportation. Social security was the top government program for reducing poverty, according to data from the agency.

Seniors depend on Medicare and Social Security to makes ends meet, said Angela Cortez, a spokeswoman for AARP Colorado.

Some leaders in Washington support cutting Social Security by $129 billion during the next 10 years. Other proposals to Medicare would cut benefits or have patents pay more out of their own pockets. Known as the chained CPI, it’s a way to measure consumer prices over time instead of with the fixed consumer price index that is currently used. Proponents say it would reduce cost-of-living increases by tying those costs to actual inflation.

Opponents, like AARP, believe that the chained CPI would harm people living on the edge of poverty.

“The ‘chained CPI’ would take thousands of dollars out of the pockets of Coloradans, and additional co-pays in Medicare would force seniors to pay more without doing anything to control costs though out the health care system,” Cortez said.

Kaiser provided a state-specific breakdown about poverty levels among senior citizens using the traditional measure of poverty.