To the Editor:
The White House budget for 2019 seems designed to hurt the elderly and people born with disabilities. An article in Forbes, a respected, traditionally conservative business magazine, titled “What Trump’s Budget Would Mean For Seniors” delivered this heart-rending news, ironically, on Valentine’s Day. The author takes the following facts from the White House budget. After each part of the budget he cites, I’ll say why I think it is morally wrong. The quotations are from the Forbes piece.
First, his budget would kill the current Medicare “cost-sharing for seniors with very high prescription drug costs.” Only in the U.S. among all “developed” nations do people have to pay huge amounts of money for medicine and medical devices. I know this for a fact because I’ve lived in the United Arab Emirates and have friends who live in Spain, France, Britain, Italy, Canada, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia. The exact same medicines, many from the exact same pharmaceutical companies as U.S. meds, cost them a few dollars while we pay $90, or thousands.
Current example: an American friend in Spain, a retired Air Force officer, is being treated for a cancer of the blood that isn’t curable, but thankfully is containable. Paying about $130 a month, he gets meds and blood tests — no questions asked, no co-pays, no waiting for the insurer to OK any procedure. No added stress.
In sharp contrast, a relative in Alabama with a bone cancer that’s also containable, but not curable, is being treated with a medication that’s been on the market since 2015. Cost per month: $10,000. She’s terrified something will happen to force her to stop working. She has always saved much of her salary, her house in an upper-middle-class area is paid for, her kids have good jobs. But even she could go bankrupt— only in America.
And she’s one of the few people I know who’s always exercised a lot, eaten healthful foods, maintained an ideal weight, gone to church and otherwise been a paragon of living right.
Second under the President’s budget, people with limited income but high “out-of-pocket expenses” would have to pay even more before getting their prescriptions free. Millions of older people would be spending over $8,000 in a year for medicines alone if hit with a catastrophic illness. Should they have to go hungry or lose their homes because life circumstances are such that they cannot pay the U.S. drug companies’ exorbitant costs? I don’t think so.
Third, the President’s budget will slash “$236 billion over 10 years” from Medicare compensation to “doctors, skilled nursing facilities, and other providers.” As someone who visits a relative’s nursing home numerous times a year, I can testify that it is clearly making do with too little already — it especially needs more nursing staff.
Fourth, the author explains that the President’s budget allows only “very small increases in some areas, including nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels, and would cut funding for others, such as falls prevention, elder rights support, and chronic disease self-management. The budget would cut funding for disability programs by about 30 percent.”
Clearly some Republicans in Congress are comfortable with old people getting fewer nutritious meals; with their breaking bones leading to being bed-ridden and dying slowly and painfully. I believe that most Smoky Mountain News readers are not that heartless or vengeful.
Fifth but regrettably not last, the President’s budget would also slash “food stamps” — really, a debit card program known as SNAP, which ensures minimal food for older people with low incomes. About 75 percent of SNAP recipients live alone or have a disability. The President would also force the elderly to take half their SNAP benefit in generic canned food. Imagine the indignity as well as the danger to old people with diabetes or another disease requiring a special diet.
Clearly, Haywood County is full of caring people who volunteer or work to help people in need of all ages, including the homeless, as Smoky Mountain News Staff Writer Cory Villancourt’s December series on homelessness shows. Let us hope that enough people ask themselves if they could bear to look themselves in a mirror, or call themselves religious, if they were to do nothing to let our elected officials know that the President’s budget is just plan immoral.