Many seniors live on the cusp of poverty

Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 10:50 a.m. MDT

After working hard their entire lives, millions of our elderly are struggling to pay for basic needs like food, medicine and housing, even with Social Security and Medicare.

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Nearly 50 percent of American seniors are in financially unstable situations, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute. It also found that the rates of vulnerability are higher for elderly blacks and Hispanics, at 63.5 percent and 70.1 percent, respectively.

The Economic Policy Institute also found much variation across the states, from a low of 35.4 percent in North Dakota to a high of 59 percent in the District of Columbia. Its data show that states with large minority populations — like the District of Columbia and California (55.8 percent) — tend to have the highest levels of elderly vulnerability.

“After working hard their entire lives, millions of our elderly are struggling to pay for basic needs like food, medicine and housing, even with Social Security and Medicare,” the report’s co-author, Elise Gould, said in a press release. "Nearly half," she added, "are just one bad economic shock away from falling into poverty."

"The report comes as lawmakers are considering making changes to Social Security and Medicare," reported the Los Angles Times. But these changes according to the Economic Policy Institute could have a devastating impact on seniors on the margins.

For example, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to convert Medicare into a voucher system would increase seniors’ out-of-pocket health costs and result in 3.5 million new economically vulnerable seniors, according to the Times report.

mwhite@deseretnews.com

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