AGS: Trump Administration's 2021 Budget "Deeply Troubling" for Older Americans

New York (Feb. 19, 2020)—Experts at the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) raised grave concerns with President Trump’s 2021 budget proposal, which remains “deeply troubling for older Americans, families, and health professionals.” In comments shared below, the AGS warned that the proposal would eliminate training programs, reduce funding for health research, and jeopardize coverage and services for older Americans if adopted as written.

“Even though this proposal is just a ‘wish list’ for now, it sends a troubling message,” said Nancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA, Chief Executive Officer of the AGS. “That’s why we’re urging everyone to let the White House and Congress know that cutting support for older adults now cuts care for us all as we age.”

In assessing the Trump Administration’s proposal, the AGS raised significant objection to changes that fail to reflect the needs of all Americans, particularly those who are most vulnerable.  Specifically, the proposal would:

  • Cut $484 million (or 66 percent) of funding for Title VII and VIII health workforce training programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These cuts eliminate all funding for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACAs), both critical to high-quality care for us all as we age. These are the only federally supported mechanisms for advancing training in older adult care among health professionals. 
  • Cut nearly $3 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $320 million from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIH and NIA have long enjoyed bipartisan support, and any threat to their funding will negatively impact researchers who are working on solutions to the diseases and disorders that we all may face as we age. The proposed budget also hits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a 19 percent budget reduction and zeroes-out funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), both key sources of guidance for all Americans, including older people. 
  • Implement massive cuts totaling $844 billion to the Medicaid program and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over the next 10 years. The budget calls for a vague end to federal funding that helped states expand Medicaid to cover more people under the ACA. The budget also proposes approximately $500 billion in net Medicare spending reductions over 10 years, largely by cutting payments to providers and suppliers, which threatens older Americans’ access to quality care. Significant changes also are being proposed to payments for graduate medical education by creating smaller grant programs funded by general revenues.    
  • Reduce funding by millions of dollars for key community services benefitting older adults. These cuts include $38 million from caregiver support programs; $16 million from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which provides free local health coverage counseling for Medicare beneficiaries; and the elimination of funding for chronic disease self-management and falls-prevention programs.

“While we’re concerned with many of the proposals outlined in the 2021 budget, we’re optimistic about some suggestions, such as a 10.2 percent budget increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Lundebjerg observed. “Advancing these beneficial changes while correcting misjudgments of our nation’s needs will be key.  As ever, we’re committed to sharing AGS member expertise with Congress and the Administration to structure funding that can meet all our country’s needs as we grow older.”

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has—for more than 75 years—worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Our nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.