Activists To Focus on Medicaid Cutbacks

Published February 11, 2005, issue of February 11, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s proposed cuts in funding for dozens of programs that benefit poor and elderly Jews — as well as other disadvantaged Americans — is alarming Jewish communal leaders. Particularly worrisome to Jewish activists is the deep cut proposed for Medicaid, a program that benefits tens of thousands of low-income Jewish seniors in nursing homes. The $2.57 trillion federal budget, which landed on Capitol Hill this week, calls for a $60 billion cut in funding for Medicaid over a 10-year period.

The president’s budget for the 2006 financial year calls for $345.2 billion for spending on Medicaid.

Communal leaders have not yet assessed the potential impact of the proposed cuts to Medicaid on Jewish seniors, or the full impact of the president’s proposed 1% across-the-board cut in domestic spending, which includes a severe reduction or elimination of 150 programs.

“A 1% cut doesn’t matter if a program has been flush for a number of years,” said Stephan Klein, director of governmental affairs at the United Jewish Communities. “But it is a problem if programs are already bare bones.”

Jewish groups will be focusing on the proposed cuts to Medicaid, the single-largest source of funding for nursing home care in America.

Jewish communal leaders have for years considered the program a high-priority budget item, because of the high proportion of seniors in the Jewish community compared with the overall American public. Of the tens of thousands of residents in 396 Jewish federation-affiliated senior housing, assisted-living or skilled-nursing apartments in North America (including Canada), more than 60% are on Medicaid.

Recent increases in the cost of prescription drugs and long-term care have made Medicaid even more crucial for Jewish agencies, which last year launched a concerted effort to fight intended cuts to the program.

Under Bush’s proposal for fiscal year 2006, which begins October 1, the total amount of nondefense, non-homeland security discretionary funds would remain frozen for the next five years. Given the rate of inflation and the population increase, this would amount to a 16% cut, Klein said. “If it were to be implemented, it would be devastating,” he said of the freeze in discretionary funding. “Many of our programs are dependent on these discretionary funds.”

In addition to Medicaid, of particular concern to the Jewish community in the president’s budget request is a $6 million cut in funds for independent living in retirement communities. The program, which was cut by $31 million last year, is used by more than 100 Jewish federation facilities to provide assisted living services, communal meals and other programs for the elderly.

The potential negative impact of other proposed cuts to social service programs, education, health care and job training programs was to be assessed by Jewish federation and community relation council leaders in a conference call Thursday.

On the positive side, Jewish communal leaders were satisfied with a significant 1% increase in funds for homeland security, which could include additional funds above the $25 million already earmarked for high-risk nonprofit sites, including Jewish institutions. They also noted with satisfaction that aid to Israel — $2.52 billion in economic and military assistance — has not been cut beyond the restructuring plan agreed to by Israel and the United States, which gradually phases out Israel’s economic aid by $120 million a year, while raising its military aid by $60 million annually.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.