The Elderly and the Human Side of the Sequestration
Are you familiar with the human side of the sequestration? The sequestration was enacted to reduce our nation’s spending deficit, which is currently in the trillions. The sequestration was also an answer to our nation reaching the debt ceiling reducing the ability for us to borrow additional funds from other nations. A sequestration is an across-the-board cut in spending which is split evenly between defense and not defense. The goal is to shave off $85 billion over the next 10 years. Many federally funded agencies and projects were slashed dramatically and we are beginning to see the results.
Unpacking The Human Side of the Sequestration
How is the sequestration affecting our nation? Those who can least afford to lose federal funding are being hit the worst.
Unemployment– those who have been laid off and/or are currently unemployed and have little to no income coming in are having their unemployment benefits reduced. Some states are reducing the weekly benefit while others, such as Florida, reduced the eligible time period in which to receive benefits by 4 weeks for approximately 100,000 individuals. Beneficiaries received letters in the mail indicating their benefits had ceased even though they had been counting on 4 more unemployment checks. How do we kick a man or woman who is already down on their luck and trying every possible means to secure a job? 4 weeks might not sound like a long time, but it is an eternity to someone who has lost their job and living unemployment check to unemployment check.
Head Start Program – serves approximately $1 million children of lower income families. This program was slashed by 5% nationally. This has caused some chapters to close, others to shorten the school year, and others to cut back on transportation provided. In Kentucky alone, federal funding was reduced by $750,000, 50 people lost their jobs, 3 centers were closed, and 160 children were removed from the program. These again are lower income families and cannot afford to have any cuts. The Head Start Program is a great educational program and how do explain to your son or daughter why he/she can no longer attend the program. The child may think it is due to
something they have done wrong. Beyond the financial impacts are the emotional impacts on the families.
Hurricane Katrina victims– federal funding was granted to Hurricane Katrina victims who lost everything. Many of these individuals were just beginning to start their lives over with the assistance of vouchers for Section 8 issued by the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Now, some of this money is being recalled. Where does it leave these individuals? How will they ever get back on their feet?
National Institute of Health– federal funding has been cut by $1.6 billion, which supported medical research such as finding a cure for cancer. How can we possibly cut back on the tremendous progress that is being made to find cures for these horrible diseases? What does it mean for those currently suffering from cancer? Their hope and dreams are diminishing for being able to find a cure during their lifetime.
Spectrum Generations– federal funding for social services specifically for the elderly and disabled adults in the state of Maine. This organization works with Meals on Wheels. In Maine, Meals on Wheels has had to reduce delivery from twice a week to once a week. How can taking food away from those who really need it benefit the country?
Medicare cutbacks– Medicare was cut back by 2% nationally. This has caused physician offices not take Medicare and has caused a huge issue with cancer treatment. Cancer clinics are being forced to cutback on their treatments, turning their patients away as they can no longer afford to treat them. Medicare patients have to find alternative care which may require traveling distances in excess of 3 hours to find a physician who will take Medicare and treat them. For cancer patients and their chemo treatments, this may mean missing almost a full day of work every other week just to accommodate the extra travel time.
While we have a national deficit in the trillions and are reaching our debt ceiling, I am not sure the areas which were chosen take into how it
would affect the American population. Those hit the hardest include the elderly, the disabled, those with terminal diseases, and those in the lower economic classes. Meanwhile, Congress is completely unaffected in regard to their pay. The sequestration was not an across-the-board cut. It was across-the-board to those who need additional funding and assistance.
What are your thoughts? Where would you have made cuts if you were in the position to make this decision? Do you have family members and friends who are worse off after the cuts? Have you personally been affected? We would love to hear your comments.
BHM is a healthcare management consulting firm whose specialty is optimizing profitability while improving care in a variety of health care settings. BHM has worked both nationally and internationally with managed care organizations, providers, hospitals, and insurers. In addition to this BHM offers a wide breadth of services ranging including managed care consulting, strategic planning and organizational analysis, accreditation consulting, healthcare financial analysis, physician advisor/peer review, and organizational development.