Guest Blog: Financially Shaky Ground

Today is National Senior Citizens Day where we recognize contributions of senior citizens across the country. We can all easily think of numerous elders in our lives who have a positive impact on our communities.

Think about being in your late 50’s to early 60’s, you would never consider yourself a “senior” but you are thinking seriously about what your life in your retirement might look like. For too many people, this is a scary time. You are not old enough to qualify for Medicare but you also have no health insurance. No doubt about it, you are on shaky ground financially. A significant health problem could create the kind of debt that will ruin your future.

As of this year, if someone earns $16,000 a year or more they now have the security of buying health insurance quite affordably through the healthcare.gov marketplace. However, if an adult with no dependent children makes less than that, they are out of luck because Montana has not yet expanded our Medicaid program. Currently, there are about 15,500 low income Montanans age 50 to 64 who are in this precarious position. Michelle is a prime example of someone who fits into this “Medicaid Gap” and she tells her story here.

Unfortunately, people who lack health insurance avoid getting care until it becomes unavoidable – when their health issue has become so critical they must seek treatment and now it is more expensive to treat. For those over 50, uninsured and not getting care, their health and financial future are at risk.

That’s why AARP Montana is fighting so hard for Medicaid expansion. AARP is a strong advocate on financial security issues like protecting Social Security and Medicare, important programs especially to those over age 65. But what happens to people in their pre-retirement years is so very important, especially for their financial future.

Expanding our Montana Medicaid program is the right thing to do for many reasons. The Montana Budget and Policy Center has done a great job researching and writing about all the economic and socially beneficial reasons lawmakers should expand Medicaid.

Lawmakers should keep in mind:

  • Expanding Medicaid will help over 15,000 Montanans ages 50 to 64 who’ve lost their jobs or are struggling in jobs without health benefits but don’t currently qualify for Medicaid health coverage.  
  • Expanding Medicaid will provide coverage for hard-working people who’ve paid in all their lives but are now struggling to make ends meet.
  • Expanding Medicaid will give people without insurance access to preventative care that can save lives, reduce the need for expensive emergency room care, and ease emergency room overcrowding that threatens us all.

So today, thank the seniors in your life for all they do. And while you are at it, remember the almost seniors who are on financial shaky ground.

Claudia Clifford is the Advocacy Director for AARP of Montana. 

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