Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Worries Mount for the Elderly `I Don't Trust Congress or the President'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Worries Mount for the Elderly `I Don't Trust Congress or the President'

Article excerpt

FOR MOST OF her life, Myrtle Smith, 81, of Florissant, believed that the government in Washington, D.C., would do what was best for the country. No longer.

"It hurts. But I don't trust Congress or the president. Politics is for the birds," said Smith as she weighed and measured people at a St. Louis County Department of Health screening in Florissant.

The woman on the scale, Nancy Koenig, 71, nodded. A life-long Republican, Koenig said that if a presidential election had been held last week she probably would have voted for a Democrat. Not because she likes the Democrats, but because she disapproves of the Republican budget's reliance on savings from Medicare and Medicaid.

"People need those services," said Koenig, whose son suffered a severe head injury several years ago. In Missouri, Medicaid covers 87,175 disabled people. In Illinois, Medicaid covers 277,000 disabled people.

The budget Congress passed, and Clinton has sworn to veto, would trim $165 billion from the growth of Medicaid and $270 from Medicare growth in the next seven years. Those are the two biggest sources of future savings to balance the budget.

Older Americans have a big stake in each program. Medicare is the federal health insurance plan for those 65 and older and the disabled. It covers 37 million elderly and disabled persons, including more than 2 million in Missouri and Illinois. Medicaid, the state and federal insurance program for the poor, pays the nursing home bills for almost 60 percent of elderly Americans.

Many older Americans say that they would find a way to pay increased Medicare premiums to help balance the federal budget. But doctors, hospitals and insurance companies should take a hit too, they say.

Many also say that managed care would work for the relatively healthy but not the chronically ill elderly or the disabled. God And The Vote

Most weekday mornings, a group of elderly women gathers for breakfast at the Union-Sarah Senior Center in north St. …

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