When Social Security was first funded in 1937, half of America’s seniors were poor. A third was still poor by 1965 when Congress enacted Medicare under the Social Security Act, virtually eliminating the major expense of old age — health care.
Today, just 11 percent of us are impoverished, although, 46 percent would fall back into poverty without Social Security.
Locally, about 10 percent of seniors in Ada and Canyon County are poor compared to 18 percent of children, according to a University of Idaho study. Meals on Wheels serves lunch to 900 needy seniors in Ada County every day, while 12,000 students in the Boise School District alone are eating a free or reduced-cost lunch because their family’s income is low.
Overall, because of entitlement programs, seniors receive a whopping seven dollars for every one dollar in the federal budget that goes to those younger than 19.
One reason seniors are doing well is because those Social Security checks of ours are partially funded by today’s workers. An Urban Institute study tells us a lifetime, two-income couple gets about one-third of its monthly checks from today’s workers while a couple that had only one lifetime wage earner gets well over half from those paying into the system today.
One response to this relative prosperity might be to write a living will and talk to our doctors about how we want to die. Why? A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine cited by Forbes bluntly summarized a dual purpose: “the less money spent at the end of life, the better the death experience is for the patient.”
Kaiser Permanente, a hospital system in California, reports that 28 percent of all Medicare costs are spent on beneficiaries in their last six months of life and most of that is in the last two months. But quite apart from the expense, we should do this out of out of compassion for ourselves and our families. Even if you’re young and could care less about costs, don’t put it off. There are a ton of living wills online.
Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise, and is a lawyer who practiced international trade law. firstname.lastname@example.org