During this legislative session, AARP Maine is working on a range of issues some of which affect our most vulnerable residents. One issue of real concern to us is about proposed cuts to the Medicare Savings Program and the Drugs for the Elderly Program also known as DEL. Many low-income Mainers are really struggling to make ends meet and it is important to protect these programs that help them stay healthy.
The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) covers Medicare Part B premiums which pay for doctor visits, preventive care, ambulance services and outpatient care. It also covers Medicare Part D prescription drug costs and co-payments. Under the current proposal, tens of thousands of seniors and adults with disabilities will be cut from the program. Statewide, depending on their circumstances, these at-risk Mainers will lose some or all coverage for prescription drugs, hospital deductibles, skilled nursing care, outpatient medical services and more.
The DEL helps pay for prescription drugs for 80,000 Mainers whose income is below 175% of the FPL. The DEL program is paid for by tobacco settlement and Racino dollars, not taxpayer dollars. Current DEL beneficiaries are on the cusp of Medicare eligibility - between the ages of 62 and 64½. These are the poorest of the poor in Maine. They are counting the days to Medicare eligibility.
What would cuts to these programs mean for older Mainers?
Older Mainers and residents with disabilities simply cannot absorb these costs. They will stop going to their doctors and taking their medications. They will use the emergency room for their primary care and only as a last resort. They risk institutional placement; a much more costly alternative to staying at home in the communities they love.
We are asking concerned Mainers to contact their local legislators and urge them to protect these essential programs. Programs like these actually help people remain in their own homes rather than being forced into institutional care which is actually much more costly for the state of Maine. Down the road, the loss of these programs is even more costly for Medicare. These vulnerable Mainers are grappling, as they do each year, with the crushing everyday costs of buying food, heating their homes and other living expenses. Sadly, many of our leaders do not understand the depth of the impact.