Every American is affected by who serves as president, but experts expect Donald Trump’s presidency to have an especially big impact on older citizens. More than 46 million Americans are 65 or older. That’s 14.5 percent of the U.S. population, or one in seven people, according to the Census Bureau. Based on campaign promises and other public statements, here’s how seniors’ lives could change with Trump in the White House.
Trump promised tax cuts throughout his campaign, and with Republicans controlling the House and Senate, massive, across-the-board cuts are almost certainly on the horizon. Like all taxpayers, seniors could benefit from this, at least in the short term — especially those nearing the end of their earning years. The larger impact, however, will likely be felt in the ways Congress decides to pay for those tax cuts.
OLDER AMERICANS ACT
Already under pressure for at least a decade, the Older Americans Act is likely to be in the crosshairs when it comes time to pay for sweeping tax cuts in a country with a growing population dominated by aging baby boomers. Enacted in 1965, the act supports a range of services designed to improve the lives of senior citizens. Among the most important is Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program that targets the increasing population of elderly, frail Americans who are no longer self-reliant.
Repealing the federal estate tax, dubbed the “death tax” by many Republicans, has long been a priority for the GOP. Trump has vowed to eliminate the measure, which taxes inheritances over $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples. Democrats say a repeal would benefit only the super-rich. Republicans argue it’s a burden for farmers and small-business owners who want to pass businesses on to their children. Either way, it’s likely to go, and its repeal would affect how much money and property a small minority of seniors can pass on to their heirs.
More than 4.6 million low-income senior citizens get at least part of their medical care through the Medicaid program. The federal government paid about 63 percent and the states paid 37 percent of Medicaid costs in fiscal 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Republicans want to shift that responsibility — and control over who can get it and how — in favor of the states, a move for which Trump has stated support. To compensate for the reductions in federal funding, states would be able to force non-disabled adult recipients to work, seek work, or train for work. States also may choose to charge premiums or copays, now the rare exception for Medicaid recipients.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation, has been a priority for Republicans since its inception. Trump has unambiguously stated his support for immediate repeal. Millions of seniors are covered under Obamacare, as the act is known, through its expansion of Medicare and the Part D prescription drug program. Medicare Part D closed the so-called “doughnut hole” that exposed many seniors to higher prescription drug costs. The ACA also entitles seniors enrolled in Medicare to free preventive services and screenings.
As part of his so-called “penny plan,” Trump aspires to reduce discretionary spending by 1 percent each year with the exceptions of Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and Social Security. This would trim spending on all domestic and social programs, including those that affect seniors, even as the population expands and ages.