Maine Seniors Worried About Proposed DHHS Budget Cuts 

Thousands of elderly or disabled Mainers depend on the state for help with medical costs. “They’ve been so much help over at DHHS and I can’t thank them enough because you know you get to the point where you don’t know where to go, who to turn to,” said Joyce Bowness of Glenburn.But a program they’ve been relying on is on the chopping block. Lawmakers are considering Governor LePage’s budget proposal, which eliminates the Drugs for the Elderly Program. The proposed cut is part of an effort to fix the more than $100 million budget shortfall between now and June in the Department of Health and Human Services. “We looked at all optional services. We looked at some of the optional eligibility groups and we really looked at it from the perspective of, ‘Where can we no longer continue to fund at the level we are funding at? Where we’re over the federal minimum?,'” said Stefanie Nadeau, Director of the Office of MaineCare Services.Folks who depend on the program think cuts should come from somewhere else. “They’re targeting the wrong people. We didn’t cause this, they did. There are other areas such as fraud and abuse of the system that could be addressed,” said Paul LeClair of Bangor, who volunteers for the Eastern Area Agency on Aging and the Senior Action Network.Seniors are worried about how they’ll afford to pay other bills if they have to start paying for expensive prescriptions.”If it comes between medication and buying food, I would buy the food and I would just go without,” said Bowness.LeClair said, “If they cut, people are going to make that choice. They’re either not going to take their medicine, they’re gonna take half their medicine or they’re gonna take it every other day and that will ultimately increase the costs for everybody because there’ll be more people going to the hospital.”Nadeau says she hopes seniors who need help will be able to find it through other agencies.”There is the area agencies on aging, legal services for the elderly that we are hoping will be able to step up and help these elders find other mechanisms, other ways for low cost, no cost drugs,” she said. The governor’s budget plan is now before the appropriations committee. Governor LePage is urging lawmakers to make a decision before the end of the month.