Mike Fasano addresses elder issues in Dunedin

08/03/11 Sarah Curran
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Almost half-a-million senior citizens live in Pasco and Pinellas Counties. And many are finding a tough state budget mostly ignores their needs and services. State Senator Mike Fasano addressed the concerns and needs of the elderly this morning at a public meeting in Dunedin.

“Im alone, a widow. I don’t have anyone to help me…I don’t have much.”

Margret Hampson is one of the more than 400-thousand senior citizens living in the area. They are facing cuts to everything from local Meals-on-Wheels programs to Medicaid and Medicare funding. The harsh reality facing many senior citizens brought one caregiver to tears. Elizabeth Fobear worries how the changes to local and state service will affect her 90 year old mother.

“For me its just kind of scary…you know, to think…I’m having a very hard time talking about this. You know its still in our society most of the time, if somebody is older and they can’t do everything for themselves then just put them in a facility and I don’t believe in that. There is just this small part of our society that deals with taking care of our children and our seniors, you know it would be better if we all took responsibility. It is an area I don’t know much about and I am learning as I am taking care of my mom. But I think what would happen if something happened to me? Who would take care of my mom? And I wonder about people my age. I’m gonna be fifty this year and I am thinking who is gonna take care of me?”

Senator Fasano says there are many issues facing our senior citizens, not only locally but also across the state and country.

“Whether it be Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, of course we are reading about property insurance companies along with citizens wants to raise the home owners premiums by thousands of percent there is no way our senior citizens that are on a fixed income those that haven’t seen a raise in their social security check for many years can afford those increase. Someone has to be an advocate someone has to speak out on behalf of them, many of those are hear today including myself and my colleagues who want to do the right thing for our senior citizens.”

Fasano adds the increased cost of property insurance will force many to forgo homeowners insurance all together, leaving them at a total loss in he event of a Hurricane or other disaster. Fasano also took some time to speak about the new Medicaid / Medicare package passed in the last legislative session. He says it started out questionable but he is happy with the final results of the deal.

“It takes into consideration our senior citizens. Makes certain the area agency on aging and other non profit organizations can create their own HMO or managed care program and be able to complete with the larger HMO companies. Let’s make certain we don’t push them out. They are doing a good job for our seniors lets make sure they continue to do that good work.”

Fasano emphasized the real changes will come in the upcoming months, when local and state governments uncover where and what is going to be cut.

“We have got to keep a very close eye on what cuts are actually going to take place. And notice in the package that was passed, nowhere in that package are they specific of cuts. They talk that we are gonna reduce, then they created this committee of 12 that is supposed to come back with recommendation in November. And if they don’t or if the congress doesn’t take any action that there will be addition reductions and automatic reductions, well ladies and gentlemen, those cuts are gonna come form areas that are recurring. And those areas are of course are our health and human service areas that provide programs for our senior citizens.”

The meeting was hosted by the Area Agency on aging. Organization officials urge Senior Citizens or caregivers with any questions about coming cost increases and service reductions can contact them by phone or go online to agingcarefl.org. Those hoping to learn more can attend one more meeting Thursday morning in Hudson at 9:30 with guest speaker Representative John Legg.

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