After one of the most divisive presidential contests in our nation’s history, and an unprecedented shift in policy promised by our new leaders, Americans are faced with an uncomfortable uncertainty lying ahead.
There is no way of knowing for sure how lawmakers will act in the coming months, what laws might be overturned or what new reforms might be put in place, but we are aware of the campaign promises that have been made and what this new administration, bolstered by support in both houses of Congress, considers priorities. Now more than ever, we need thoughtful long-term planning to care for seniors, the disabled, and our families and loved ones.
During his campaign the President-elect was careful not to outline the specific policy changes he will pursue, but to compensate for his proposed $6.2 trillion tax cut he targeted several groups and programs for budget cuts and reform, many of which will impact the daily lives of seniors. Chief among these was Medicaid, a health insurance program that millions of low income and disabled Americans rely on for health insurance and millions of seniors desperately need for payment of nursing home care that would otherwise leave them and their families impoverished.
The President-elect supports capping the federal contribution to Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, which would limit the reimbursement to nursing homes and home health agency providers, reducing the quality and care available to seniors. Proposed changes might also make it more difficult for seniors and disabled applicants to qualify for benefits, reducing the overall cost with potentially catastrophic results for seniors and their families. In jeopardy of massive cuts are other programs that seniors rely on for safety and well-being in their daily lives, including Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, and affordable senior housing. Research spending for diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s will also likely be reduced.
Also at risk is the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance to 20 million previously uninsured Americans. While the President-Elect has recently stated he would consider salvaging provisions including prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to those with previously existing conditions, and allowing young adults to remain covered under their parents existing plans until age 26, a full-scale repeal was passed last year in the Senate, only to be saved by President Obama’s veto.
Social Security and Medicare might also face long-discussed changes. Congressional Republicans have been touting reform for years, including changing the cost of living index, increasing premiums, and raising the retirement age. This would have a monumental effect on Americans nearing retirement, who planned on social security to supplement their savings as they face years on a fixed-income.
The President-elect and Congressional republicans have also promised sweeping changes to estate tax laws, congregating wealth while leaving fewer resources available for the programs benefiting seniors and the disabled, and placing available options for their care in doubt.
While we cannot predict the future, we do know that expert planning and an informed consumer are the best tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones. None of the proposed changes will take effect immediately but we must remain vigilant and educated as the process unfolds.
If you would like to review your existing estate planning documents to determine if any changes should be made, or if you are eager to put an estate plan in place to ensure that your wishes will be carried out, to care for a child or other family member with disabilities, and to protect your family’s assets, please give us a call. We look forward to working with you.