It’s hard to believe, but having been defeated year after year, proposals to implement drastic cuts to the Medicare Savings Program and the Drugs for the Elderly have been reintroduced as part of the governor’s 2015 budget proposal.

The argument is that those funds should be diverted to some other programs for our aging population, but the reality is that cutting those funds will mean tens of thousands of at-risk Mainers will lose some or all coverage for prescription drugs, hospital deductibles, skilled nursing care and outpatient services. In the oldest state in the country, one in which a third of residents older than 65 subsist entirely on Social Security income, it simply doesn’t make sense to reduce critical benefits in order to satisfy a political objective.

After the Legislature’s successful bipartisan efforts to protect the interests of Maine seniors with these vital programs, even at the depths of the recent recession, the proposed cuts don’t make sense. Could the renewed attempt to reduce funding for seniors be related to concurrent plans to cut tens of millions of dollars of state income by eliminating the estate tax, a measure that would benefit a total of 150 people in Maine?

Older Mainers and those 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 primary care. They risk institutional placement — a much more costly alternative to staying at home in the communities they love. Further, such placement is contrary not only to the expressed wishes of the vast majority of Maine people, but also supposedly to nearly all of our elected officials as well.

Isn’t it time to take reduction of services to Maine’s most vulnerable older residents off the table, once and for all?

Rich Livingston, president

AARP, Maine

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