By Kim Jacobs
As an inevitable part of our lives, we pay taxes. And while it’s seldom something we enjoy, the programs financed by our tax dollars provide crucial benefits to our society, especially seniors.
Statistics from the US Census Bureau in 2019 show that there are more than 54 million US residents aged 65 and older. As these Baby Boomers age out of the workforce, and medical advances allow people to live longer and healthier lives, that number will increase. For many older adults, their lives are improved by programs funded by state and federal taxes.
When we think of benefits for senior citizens, one of the first that comes to mind is Social Security. This program, funded primarily through payroll taxes, is a major source of income for the elderly. Almost nine out of ten people aged 65 and older receive a Social Security benefit. According to the Social Security Administration Fact Sheet, an average of 65 million Americans per month received a Social Security benefit in 2021, totaling over one trillion dollars in benefits paid during the year.
Almost ten percent of seniors live below the poverty level (in 2020, the poverty guideline set by the Department of Health and Human Services was an income of $12,760 for a single person household). The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps those in near the poverty level. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2017, the average monthly SNAP benefits accessed by Ohio households with seniors was $115 per month.
Though that amount might seem insubstantial, many economists point to SNAP as one of the most effective and efficient forms of economic stimulus. In a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity. In 2018, the federal government spent $68 billion on food assistance programs. Ninety-two percent of SNAP spending went directly to food purchases.
SNAP’s benefits go beyond the short-term. Many older adults feel forced into dangerous cost-cutting choices, such as eating less often and choosing food that is less nutritious because it’s also less expensive. The National Council on Aging has reported, from studies done involving low-income seniors in Maryland, that SNAP participants are 23% less likely to enter a nursing home and 4% less likely to be hospitalized in the year after receiving SNAP than non-participants. SNAP participation was also linked to lower overall health care expenditures.
In addition to nationwide assistance, local programs, such as the Lucas County Senior Dining Site Program, are also available. That program provides lunch, Monday through Friday, at various dining sites in the Toledo area. Beyond the meal itself, seniors also enjoy social interaction, nutrition education and other activities. TARTA bus passes are also available for those without transportation. Home meal delivery is also available, such as RoyaDeliFoods.com and MobileMeals.org.
When it comes to healthcare and seniors, Medicare and Medicaid are recognized as the names of programs, but what’s the difference between them?
Medicare is a federal insurance program primarily for people over 65, no matter their income level. Medical bills are paid from funds which individuals covered by the program have already paid into through wage deductions throughout their working life; patients also pay some costs through deductibles and small monthly premiums.
Medicaid is an assistance program for those with low-income, no matter their age. Patients usually pay nothing for covered medical expenses. Medicaid is run by state and local governments within federal guidelines.
Depending on income and age, individuals can be on both Medicare and Medicaid at the same time. The Area Office on Aging has certified Medicare counselors to provide free Medicare assistance.
Housing is another area with numerous programs available to help seniors. The Home Repair Program is a state-funded program offered by the Ohio Department of Aging for minor home improvements and repairs for eligible older adults. Housing subsidiaries are also available for low income elderly apartments through The Area Office on Aging.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is a federal program which assists those with lower-income to pay the cost of heating their homes. Though HEAP is not age limited, it certainly has obvious benefits for many seniors.
Many older adults prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible, but that can be a challenge, financially, even once the mortgage is paid off. The PASSPORT program, through the Ohio Department of Aging, helps Medicaid-eligible Ohioans get the support they need to stay in their homes, such as home-delivered meals, assistance with bathing, dressing, housekeeping, transportation, equipment and more.
Seniors are honored members of our society, however, too often, they struggle financially. Fortunately, there are many programs available to help them. It’s good to know that our tax dollars are being used in positive ways.
The Ohio Department of Aging, the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio and Senior Centers receive tax dollars to run vital programs, providing help to all seniors with matters of health, activities, food, engagement, housing and more.
- Medicare – 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); www.medicare.gov/
- Medicaid – 877-267-2323; www.medicaid.gov/
- The Ohio Department of Aging – (800) 266-4346; aging.ohio.gov
- Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio – (419) 382-0624; areaofficeonaging.com
- Ohio Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) – 1-800-282-0880; development.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/development/help-center
- TARTA – 419-243-RIDE (7433); tarta.com/
- Mobile Meals – 419-255-7806; mobilemeals.org/
- Royal Deli Foods – (419) 874-7451; royaldelifoods.com/
- National Council on Aging – ncoa.org/
- US Census Bureau – 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282; census.gov/
- Social Security – 1-800-772-1213; ssa.gov/
- SNAP – (703) 305-2062; fns.usda.gov/
- Department of Health and Human Services – 1-877-696-6775; hhs.gov/
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – 202.408.1080; cbpp.org/