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Commentary:”More American Are Dying in Poverty”; Bloomberg News, August 2016.

 

While the topic, More American Are Dying in Poverty”; Bloomberg News, August 2016, is important, it raises some interesting questions. Early in the article, it states; “Though no empirical measure can truly illustrate the day-to-day reality of being poor. … When including out-of-pocket healthcare costs, more elderly Americans are classified as living in poverty”. Yes, it’s true.   However, the costs listed do not tell the whole story.

In my decades of experience working with seniors, I noticed that other kinds of out-of-pocket costs are not directly considered healthcare and impact seniors financially. These costs include landscaping, house cleaning and home repairs. In previous years, the senior mowed, painted and cleaned house themselves. Seniors may also need someone to run their errands because they no longer drive.  None of these kinds of costs are considered “staying overnight in hospital” yet they are costs to seniors. Sometimes family takes on these tasks; sometimes they can’t; then it becomes a senior’s out-of-pocket expense.  I therefore request the total senior living expense be re-determined to more accurately reflect expenses by including a senior supportive living cost factor.

The article goes on to describe the 1963 formula which defines the poverty line as the dollar equivalent of three times the cost of feeding a family of four based on the 1955 Household Consumption Survey that is adjusted for inflation each year. REALLY?!   That’s 61 years of successive inflation! No wonder “supplemental measure’s poverty line is consistently 0.5 to 1% point above the official measure”.   That consistently inaccurate percentage is an excellent indicator that those measurements need to change. Why are we still using it? Additionally, the percentage of seniors in our population in 1950 was 5.6%. In 2010 it was 13%. No wonder measurements are off; we are using a yardstick from Donna Reed’s era to measure a country in the digital age!

The article continues by pointing to measures that have helped reduce poverty such as child care tax rebates and SNAP food benefits for children. We have 34.2 million caregivers today; where are their senior care tax rebates? Where’s the senior care SNAP? Studies have shown it’s cheaper to keep seniors with their families or in their own homes? If families take on these responsibilities, is that not as important to maintaining this society as child rearing? Where’s the senior caregiver’s help?

The article compares various factors and offers an interactive. “Acs concludes that if the same poverty rate that existed between 2000 and 2010 were in place today, 11 million fewer (italics mine) people would be considered poor”. That description separates the “historical rate for different age groups” from their percentage of total population. In 1955, the Baby Boom, was just reaching school age. Now, all the Boomers are reaching senior age. Thus, our population is completely reversed in percentages to that of 1955! I believe that the aggregate of an unsupported and growing senior percentage diminishes society’s capacity to absorb these senior supportive living/caregiving costs. Therefore, I suggest that what we need today is a new yardstick which includes current realities, as a basis for true determination of where we are now. Only with an accurate basis can we make solidly supportive public policy that will help our society survive the Age Boom and its consequences leading to senior end-of-life poverty.

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