and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

More senior citizens joining ranks of 'greedy geezers'
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, March 6, 2009

If you ever get the property-tax relief Deval Patrick promised when he was running, I hope you spend it before you're a self-paying patient in a nursing home.

The governor's new budget increases the state's already outrageous tax on nursing homes, which is passed directly on to patients who aren't on Medicare or Medicaid.

So if a patient didn't spend or hide all his assets, and can still pay his own way, he is charged a daily "fee" for which he gets no special treatment. This "fee," therefore, is really a tax. It's a tax on injured, chronically ill or elderly patients who've maintained some economic independence and who pay the nursing home for their own care.

The last time I checked the added tax was over $10 a day, but that amount reflects the original state law, which says the fee must be adjusted so that, when all the nursing homes have sent in their share, the state gets $135 million. Gov. Patrick wants that increased to $220 million.

This tax has the added benefit of using up the self-payer's own money so that he too goes on Medicaid, which is partly reimbursed by the federal government a state scam that so far the feds have tolerated. But why not? They can just put it on the national debt tab for our grandchildren to pay.

Citizens for Limited Taxation keeps filing legislation to repeal this obscene tax, with no success.

This nursing home "fee" was originally the bright idea of acting Gov. Jane Swift's administration, and we couldn't get Gov. Romney to repeal it. So the tax is a true bipartisan effort. Isn't it nice when Republicans and Democrats stop fighting and work together?

When my mother went into a nursing home in Pennsylvania, she still had assets that had to be paid down before Medicaid kicked in. People told us we were crazy not to have moved her money out of state, but we thought that would be cheating; and besides, we both liked the idea that she was a paying customer instead of a welfare patient.

If she were still alive and living in Massachusetts, I'd use every legal tactic to spend down her assets, before she could be punished for having them via this additional tax. It's one thing to be extra honest, and another thing to be a sucker, which, increasingly, has become another name for taxpayers of all ages here.

Admittedly, I'm not doing this with my own meager assets; partly because I'm just getting used to being a senior citizen, and partly because like so many people, I am determined not to move into a nursing home here.

I've also been determined not to join AARP, regardless of how many consumer discounts it offers, mostly because it keeps appearing on lists of groups opposing tax cuts and supporting tax increases on SWP (still-working persons). I recall the Mass. Council of Older Americans opposing Proposition 2.

So I have come to divide senior citizens into people like me, who feel "entitled" only to what we have earned ourselves, and greedy geezers. The latter are defined as those who demand more from taxpayers even as they get to the age where their own contributions to Social Security and Medicare are exhausted, putting them on the receiving end of society.

I do recall my mother and her friends urging a letter-writing campaign in opposition to an increase in Medicare charges. I pointed out that they were getting just a tad "grabby," to which my mother replied: "Young lady, your father and I paid taxes all our lives and never asked for anything from the government (including payment for my K-12 Catholic education). Now I expect something back."

It was hard to argue with that, at least until those Social Security contributions are used up. I compute my own payroll deductions, my employers' contributions and a reasonable rate of interest that I could have earned from saving the money myself. Maybe I could include the money I've paid in other taxes for government activities I don't support, and subtract the cost of services I personally receive and my share of those government expenditures I do support.

After all that computing, maybe I'll be close to 80 when I go on SS welfare. I'm trying not to think about how soon I'll use up my contributions to Medicare, which will vanish with a few major medical issues.

Keeping this in mind, I watch the fascinating debate in Salem on siting for a senior citizens' center. Setting aside the bizarre notion that Mayor Kim Driscoll wants to poison the city's seniors by entertaining them on polluted land, I see seniors divided among those who appreciate her extraordinary efforts and those who insist they are entitled to a view of Salem Harbor while they play bingo!

As the economy deteriorates, we are seeing a resurgence of class warfare; we will also see more generational division as younger citizens struggle to keep afloat. Watch the debate between seniors who care about the next generations and greedy geezers who just care about themselves.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.