Poverty in HawaiiA new analysis of Census data showing that more Hawaii residents are living in poverty shines a spotlight on harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare now being considered in Washington that could push even more seniors into poverty.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, 19 percent of people 65 and older in Hawaii have incomes below the supplemental poverty line. This compares to eight percent of older Hawaii residents living in poverty under the traditional measure.

“Medicare and Social Security aren’t just numbers in a budget,” said AARP Hawaii State President Gerry Silva. “Our seniors depend on these vital programs and cutting their Social Security and Medicare benefits could push those on the brink into serious financial hardship.”

Right now, some politicians support “chained CPI” – a fancy Washington term that really means cutting Social Security by $127 billion over the next 10 years alone.  The cut would start now and grow larger every year, hurting seniors the most when they can least afford it.  There are also harmful Medicare proposals that would cut benefits or force patients to pay more out of their own pockets or even avoid care, while failing to contain long-term cost increases that are the real, underlying problem for health care and the federal budget.

“The ‘chained CPI’ would take thousands of dollars out of the pockets of older Hawaii residents, and additional co-pays in Medicare would force seniors to pay more without doing anything to control costs throughout the health care system,” Silva added. “That’s why AARP is fighting for responsible solutions that keep Medicare and Social Security strong, not harmful cuts that break the promises we’ve made to those who’ve paid in to these critical programs all their lives.”

The non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation provides a state-specific breakdown of poverty rates among seniors using both the traditional measure of poverty and an alternative measure first released by the Census Bureau in 2011. The alternative, or ‘supplemental’ poverty measure, more accurately represents real world conditions by taking into account seniors’ disproportionately high health care costs. It finds a higher poverty rate among seniors in every state.

For more AARP resources and information, visit www.earnedasay.org.

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