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Possible Medicare, Social Security cuts hit home for father of three in Ozark

Richard Green was diagnosed with mutliple sclerosis in 1997.

August 08, 2011|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News | jscherder@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security managed to escape the cutting block when our nation's lawmakers crafted the now infamous debt deal this month.  In the Ozarks, there is still plenty of concern those programs could be in the crosshairs once again in the near future.

A community forum at Missouri State University adddressed the issue on Monday. The forum was sponsored by the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans Education Fund.

AARP Regional Director Jim Clemmons has answered a lot of questions lately.

"It's very difficult to travel to unravel misinformation and present the true facts," said Clemmons.

Many of the questions are about Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

One in six Missourians actually benefits from Social Security in some way.  Roughly 1.1 million people use it.  In southwest Missouri, more than 40 percent of those 65 and older manage to stay out of poverty because of Social Security programs.

"The general feeling is they are very, very concerned. They know the future appears unpredictable right now," said Clemmons.

Someone very interested in what happens to these social programs is Ozark resident Richard Green.

"[I] gradually started using a cane, then a walker, then eventually a wheelchair," said Green.

Green was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997 and lost his job in 2004.

"So reality was hitting hard: 'Where am I going to find income?'" he recalled thiking.

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He can no longer work and lives off federal disability payments to support him and his three kids.

"My income went to about a fourth of what I was making," Green said.  "That's a huge lifestyle change."

The burden got heavier when his 11-year-old son got sick.

"My son is a cancer survivor," he said, "and without Medicaid I would go bankrupt."

Green is scared that another debate over what to cut in Washington will turn back towards what he uses to survive. 

"Not only is the fight to try to protect the current system but also fight for the protection for my children and other future generations."

Green is certainly not alone.

"[Senior Citizens] just cannot afford to take drastic cuts without it driving them in a very, very difficult situation," said Clemmons.

Basic medications and therapies for Green's MS runs around $90,000 year. That does not include doctors' visits or MRIs. He says, without Medicare help, he wouldn't be able to afford what he needs. If that happened, his disease would progress rapidly.

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