Opinion Columns & Blogs

Legislature’s cuts will hurt the most vulnerable, most needy

Now that the state Legislature has finished its work and the governor has signed the bills that were passed, it is time to look at the work that they did. The budget deficit was addressed and the Republicans and Democrats worked together to a great extent to try to come up with cuts that would do the least harm. Unfortunately, the cuts they made will do harm, especially to the most vulnerable.

A little background here, people who were disabled young and had low-paying service jobs generally have little income. (Low-paying service jobs are much more dangerous generally than high-paid desk jobs. Low-paid workers lift and carry heavy things that the executive orders moved.) Some of these, disabled early, get very little in the way of Social Security and have no other resources. I had friend in this fix who begged me for my leftover blood clot medication after leg surgery; she was unable to afford to buy her medication and needed it.

The cuts the state Legislature passed are going to seriously affect people. The Senior Citizen Services Act which funds programs such as meals-on-wheels has been cut. Meals-on-wheels ensures that shut-ins get one good meal a day. As people get older and when people are sick, they do not have the appetite triggers that younger, healthier people do. They often forget meals or make do with something easy but not nutritious. They may not have someone to take them to the store when they need more groceries. The meals-on-wheels lunch comes hot and is set on the table. I have seen when my father’s food is delivered; the volunteer calls him to the table where he is served. My brother tries to get him to eat breakfast and something in the evening, but it doesn’t always work. We now know he has had a well-rounded meal for lunch.

Most elderly and disabled whose income is so low they get Medicaid, outside certain very limited parameters, will not be able to get new glasses or hearing aids as state aid for these is cut off. People who now drive to the grocery store will lose that ability if their glasses break or their eyes get worse. Watching TV is no fun if you can’t see or hear it. You can’t do puzzles or otherwise entertain yourself and keep your brain active. Being active and involved in your community is one of the best ways to stay out of the nursing home. If you can’t see to read the newspaper and you can’t hear the TV news or what your visitors are saying, you will not be able to interact with others. People who are cut off this way tend to fail quickly.

Another area cut is the help to low-income persons on Medicare when they reached the “doughnut hole” in their prescription coverage. The health care system passed last year will not close this hole in coverage until 2020. In the past, state funds have helped with the co-pay amount. Because these are the sickest and most vulnerable, defined by the very fact they have to take so much medicine, one must wonder what the end result will be. Without this small help, will people decide to stretch their prescription by only taking half or will they go without their medicine? This will, of course, eliminate any benefits the medicine is supposed to provide.

I studied an almanac I received a couple of years ago and our average age at death is lower than about 30-40 other countries. These cuts will not improve that statistic; rather they may slide us further down.

Virginia Towne, a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, retired from the University of Washington as a computer programmer. Towne, who has personal experience with disabilities, can be reached at townevi@gmail.com.