Rena Heath is from Hallowell. She is a member of the AARP Capitol City Task Force and no stranger to the state house in Augusta. Rena delivered testimony on Dec. 14 to protest budget cuts that would negatively impact thousands of older Mainers who rely on MaineCare for certain services that help them stay in their own homes.
Here’s what she had to say:
As part of the commitment of AARP to improving the lives of those fifty and older in Maine, we conducted a survey of older Mainers earlier this year. Our goal was to find out what issues are of most concern to older Mainers especially during such tough economic times.
More than 50% say that health care issues are their top challenge. 40% worry about being able to stay in their own homes as they age. 35% worry about alternative housing options and whether or not they will be able to remain in their local communities in the years to come. These are proud Mainers with deep roots in our state. They worked here and raised families here. As you consider cuts to programs to balance the state budget, I sincerely hope you will remember the critical services that are needed to keep Mainers in their homes and in their communities where they want to be and where they should be.
Support services help keep Mainers healthy and at home. Support services help Mainers maintain a life of independence and dignity. By cutting programs administered through MaineCare such as dental services and podiatry services, the state is essentially cutting part of the lifeline upon which tens of thousands of older Mainers rely.
Cutting these programs means that stroke victims, those in need of rehab and diabetics, to name a few, will suffer. Many Mainers have diabetes including me. Very often it is in the feet where the effects of diabetes can first be seen. By cutting preventive podiatric care, diabetics and those who are at risk of infection will be forced to head to the emergency room for treatment. The average cost of a visit to an emergency room is $1,000. Who will shoulder this extra cost in the long-term?
Dental care is another program currently administered through MaineCare that is essential to the well-being of vulnerable Mainers. Again, the elimination of the adult dental option will result in increased use of our emergency rooms. Without responsible, preventive dental care, vulnerable adults will experience an increase in gum disease, tooth decay and painful procedures that could have been avoided.
This is the time when our most vulnerable neighbors need our help the most. Please do not cut the programs necessary for them to live healthier lives.
“'The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy.' I didn’t write that. Benjamin Franklin did,” said Heath
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