Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill with a nearly unanimous vote of 29-1.
While there were some increases in aging services, two critical programs were targeted for significant cuts. The Committee proposed that:
- The Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) lose all of its $52.1 million in funding, effectively eliminating the program.
- The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) lose $34.4 million, or 8% of its funding.
Since 1992, SHIP has been providing free, in-depth, personalized counseling to seniors and people with disabilities who need unbiased help with the growing complexities of Medicare coverage. SHIPs also provide assistance with fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeal rights, and enrollment in low-income protection programs. SHIPs are allocated funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL). Last year, over 7 million Medicare beneficiaries received help from SHIPs.
Medicare advocates were shocked that the Senate committee would propose to effectively eliminate the important, successful SHIP program. NCOA has urged that funding be increased to account for inflation and increasing need. Learn more from our issue brief.
Funded by the Older Americans Act, SCSEP provides subsidized, service-based training for low-income persons aged 55+ who are unemployed and have poor employment prospects. Cutting the program could result in fewer seniors served or decreased income due to fewer working hours. Learn more about SCSEP and the NCOA program.
There are a few positive notes in the FY17 bill, including:
- $2 million more for Elder Justice, equal to the Administration’s request, boosting funding to $10 million total
- $2 million increase for Senior Medicare Patrol, equal to the Administration’s request, boosting funding to $13.9 million
- $2 billion more for the National Institutes of Health, including a $400 million increase for Alzheimer’s Disease research at the National Institute on Aging
Most other aging services were level-funded, such as:
- $5 million allocated from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) for Falls Prevention activities at ACL and $2.1 million appropriated for activities at the Centers for Disease Control
- $8 million allocated from the PPHF for Chronic Disease Self-Management Education
- $347.7 million for Older Americans Act Supportive Services and Senior Centers (the Administration requested a $10 million increase)
- $834.8 million for OAA Nutrition Programs (the Administration requested a $13.8 million increase)
A complete list of proposed funding levels can be found in our updated FY17 Aging Services Funding table.
What’s next? The House Appropriations Committee has not yet taken action on its version of the FY17 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, but it expected to do so in the next few weeks. It is crucial that the House not include similar cuts to SHIPs and SCSEP.