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Gov. Patrick has abandoned state’s elderly, say advocates


Elder rights groups in Massachusetts say Gov. Deval Patrick’s policy agenda has all but forgotten the state’s aging population.  The statement follows a troubling series of proposals, decisions and developments that have hit hard at services for vulnerable elders, according to leaders of AARP, the Massachusetts Association of Older Americans (MAOA), Massachusetts Councils on Aging and Senior Center Directors (MCOA), Mass Home Care, and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council (MSAC).

The groups sent a letter to Gov. Patrick on January 18, 2012, urging him to restore the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) as a cabinet agency, and giving the Secretariat the full responsibilities it has under state law. In 2009, the governor proposed weakening Elder Affairs via an Article 87 reorganization, but later withdrew the plan under pressure from elder rights groups.

Those same groups now charge that the Patrick Administration went ahead without legislative authority, and diminished the role and stature of EOEA so that it functions today as a department, not a secretariat, and is not managing long term supports for elders needing institutional or home based care, which is more than $3 billion in services.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services has taken over much of the decision-making regarding long term care for seniors despite the statutory language directing EOEA to manage long term services and supports. This weakening of EOEA has been incrementally happening for the past three years, the groups said.

Almost one in five Massachusetts residents is age 60 plus, and this group is the most rapidly growing segment of the state’s population.

“There are more than 653,000 households in this state with someone over the age of 60, and they’re wondering if anyone in public office is paying attention to their needs,” said Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care. “If there is an elderly agenda in this state, it’s a well kept secret; it’s as if 20 percent of our population has just disappeared off the public policy screen.”

The groups cite the following seven of many indicators of a lack of concern for the aging population in Massachusetts:

  • ·In his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, Gov. Deval Patrick cuts the Elder Nutrition Program in the state by $1.5 million, taking almost 250,000 meals off the table;
  • ·More than 1,100 elders are on a waiting list for enhanced home care, and since March 1, the basic home care program also has a wait list for the rest of the year.
  • ·The funding formula for Councils on Aging, through the Local Aid Formula Grant, has been reduced by more than 10% despite an increase of nearly 200,000 seniors according the 2010 US Census;
  • ·The MBTA is proposing fare increases, service cuts and changes to The Ride that disproportionately impact elders and persons with disabilities;
  • ·A national report issued last September by AARP shows Massachusetts ranks in the bottom half, at number 30, of all states when it comes to the overall affordability and quality of long term services and supports – including home care, adult day health services, residential services such as assisted living and nursing homes, and support for family caregivers.
  • ·A report issued by MAOA’s national partner, Wider Opportunities for Women, found recently that over half of the state’s elders typically face a budget shortfall of at least $10,248 annually, making it impossible for them to meet even their most basic needs for food, health care and shelter. Massachusetts ranked the worst of all states.
  • ·The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) has been diminished in its roles and responsibilities over the past several years, with the Secretary no longer managing long term care, and reporting to the Secretary of Health and Human Services,  not directly to the governor, as does a true secretariat.

“In 1971, Massachusetts had the vision to create the first in the nation cabinet level agency dedicated solely to addressing the needs of our residents as they age,” said Chet Jakubiak, executive director, MAOA. “Aging isn’t just about medical needs; it’s about transportation, housing, community service, employment opportunities and more.  Now, with so many elders facing economic disaster every day, it is more critical than ever that the Executive Office of Elder Affairs be restored to a full Cabinet level secretariat that truly contributes to big picture policy decisions.”

“Bottom line: Massachusetts seniors are worse off now than they were a few years ago, and it’s not just because of the recession,” said Deborah Banda, director of AARP Massachusetts.  “We know many tough decisions must be made as our economy struggles to recover.  But what does it say about our values when the state has more than $1 billion in its rainy day fund and our leaders aren’t willing to dip into it to protect meals for our seniors?”  According to the AARP Foundation, more than 140,000 older adults in Massachusetts risk going hungry every day.

“Councils on Aging and senior centers are more important than ever as our aging population grows,” said David P. Stevens, executive director of MCOA.  “They provide vital services,  including congregate meals,  that keep seniors independent, healthy and engaged in their communities.  Without them, many seniors would need more expensive supports and care; if we adequately fund these centers, it will save money in the long run.”

The groups are calling on elected officials at every level, from Town Halls to the State House, to develop action plans for meeting the needs of the growing aging population statewide and in their respective communities.

“Despite having worked hard their entire lives nearly half of all seniors in Massachusetts struggle to meet their basic needs. With this population expected to double by the year 2025 we need to ensure the Commonwealth is planning ahead to ensure the supports are in place,” said Carolyn Villers, executive director of MSAC.  “Don’t forget: seniors vote.  With state and national elections coming this fall, every candidate should be able to articulate what their vision is for meeting the needs of our aging population in Massachusetts and nationwide.”

“The governor has a lot on his plate,” Norman concluded. “But elderly issues seem to have dropped off the table.”

3 Responses to “Gov. Patrick has abandoned state’s elderly, say advocates”

  1. richard odom says:

    I was just dropped from Mass Health because my Social Security cost of living increase put me six dollars over the eligibility criteria established by some administrative body using what appear to be arbitrary and minimal standards of acceptability to a health program that I have had for over ten years. I am disabled, and have been on Social Security and Mass Health for over ten years (after have contributed to my country by working over forty years in human services). My income could double and barely exceed the upper level for food stamps. Yet, at less than $960 a month I am too rich to qualify for food stamps. After three years of no cost of living increases from Social Security, they are suddenly and inexplicitly resumed. I knew there would be a cost for this apparent gift, beyond the usual rent increase (the increases are always offset by rent increases of the same amount when the next lease is signed, so the recipients who live in subsidized housing never see the cost of living benefit.). However, I never dreamed that a $33.50 cost of living increment would put me in a bracket of being too rich for Mass Health. I have COPD (need oxygen 24 hours a day. I have neuropathy on the balls of my feet as a direct result of that. I also have Macular Degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people over fifty), skin cancer, arthritis in both knees, degenerative spinal arthritis, an enlarged prostate which necessitates me taking a pill each day in order to stay alive. I also suffer from anxiety and depression. I have been so grateful that I live in Massachusetts that offers such a good health plan.

    I am not complaining about my various ailments. They come with age, life conditions, and mt genetic makeup. I manage to ge3t around and do what I can on a voluntary level. But I can not understand how a man with an income so low I have to not but anything I don’t need THAT VERY DAY. Even then it is always a battle to make it to the end of the month without going broke. But I make too much money for Mass Health. This is not right. I have appealed it, but I can not find out what reasons are accepted as valid to grant an appeal. I cannot find a professional to go to the hearing with me. Lawyers cost money. I don’t have the resources for that.How has this happened, so suddenly, without a hint of what was coming. My increase was not high. Hundreds, probably thousands got increases greater than mine. Are there countless of seniors suddenly without their Mass Health, wondering, after seeing their SHINE counselors, how this happened, and why there is no one who can hear their situation, many worse than mine, and say, “I will look into it, and we will have a hearing at the State House. This should not be happening. The very people who helped create a decent economy are being targeted in one of the life lines they need most, and which they paid into with their tax money: health care.” Who is that person? Who is that person? Apparently not the Governor, or any of his administration. Is this an intentional cost cutting measure? We know the republicans are going after Medicare. I know how it feels not to have dental care any longer I am losing teeth.

    How can we unite into an effective policy changing group? We have to do something. I’m sure there are a lot of seniors who would be willing to contribute their voices and energies. We have a life time of experience to contribute. What can we do? We need help.We need to be heard. This is not in the news. No cares about the elderly. But we are not useless. And we can vote. Please help us. We need a website, access to the Governor’s ear, organization, and God knows what else. We need to start somewhere, and we need to act now.

  2. Susanne Fleming says:

    The economy is terrible and thousands of seniors are forced to start collecting SS early at a lower amount because they are out of work and have exhausted their Unemployment..income so low that they are eligable for MA Health but the 2012 SS increase puts them over the cap so now they have to again choose between medicine, doctor visits or food! Only in America!

  3. Dennis Byron says:


    When Social Security payments went up January 1, 2012 for the first time in three years and as determined by a 1985 federal law, the different income bands for senior eligibility for full Mass Health, the multiple Masshealth Medicare Savings Programs, Prescription Advantage, Health Safety Net, Social Security Extra Help for Part D, and so forth also all went up pretty much in proportion. So there must be something else going on with your annual MassHealth eligibility review. Go back to Shine


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