KOHL DECRIES CUTS IN THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET TO VITAL PROGRAMS FOR AMERICA'S SENIORS


WASHINGTON B U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, today called into question the priorities set forth by the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget proposal with respect to America's senior citizens. In remarks prepared for a hearing entitled "Boomers and the Budget: What Does it Mean for America's Seniors," Kohl specifically referenced cuts in funding for health care providers, nutrition programs, caregiver support, and senior housing, as well as increases in Medicare premiums for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

"We need to remember that the budget is a statement of what our nation values most - and that should include the needs of our senior citizens," Kohl said. "Seniors deserve affordable health care, retirement security, and supportive services to help them remain vital in their communities. Unfortunately, the President's budget simply does not strike the right balance for seniors."

Chairman Kohl criticized the President's proposal to make over $78 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts to hospitals, home health agencies, and nursing homes. The Administration's budget also proposes charging seniors billions in higher premiums for prescription drugs and doctor visits.

"Instead of targeting seniors and the providers who serve them," Kohl said, "the President should be targeting areas where we know we are overpaying - such as prescription drugs."

Under the President's proposal, some of the most egregious cuts include those affecting programs under the Administration on Aging, which takes a $28 million dollar hit in programs like Meals on Wheels and Family Caregiver Support Services. The HUD Section 202 program, which provides safe, affordable, and supportive housing for low-income seniors across the country, would receive $160 million less this year than it did in FY 2007 under the President's budget proposal. Currently, there are ten seniors vying for every unit that becomes available in one of the 6,000 Section 202 developments nationwide.

"With Boomers set to retire en masse, these cuts are shortsighted. They simply do not account for the growing need for services," Kohl said.

Chairman Kohl also expressed disappointment in the President's attempt to once again initiate private accounts for Social Security. By themselves, the accounts would do nothing to improve Social Security's solvency. Instead, they would cost $29 billion in 2012 and $637 billion over 10 years, according to the President's budget, while slashing guaranteed benefits for average earners born today by 28 percent.

Witnesses offering testimony at today's hearing included Leslie Norwalk, Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS); Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA); Josefina Carbonell, Assistant Secretary of the Administration on Aging (AoA); and Brian Montgomery, Assistant Secretary for Housing (HUD).

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