An advocate for Mukilteo’s seniors | Editor's Note
Mukilteo Beacon: An advocate for Mukilteo’s seniors | Editor's Note
By Sara Bruestle
Although he spends most of his time in the other Washington, Rick Larsen is an advocate for seniors in Washington state.
I attended the Mukilteo Seniors Association luncheon on Oct. 17 to hear the U.S. congressman speak about the federal issues important to Washington’s senior population.
(I’m a good 20 years away from joining the association – you need to be 50 or older – so I joked with members that I had Benjamin Button’s disease before letting them know I was there as the editor of the Mukilteo Beacon.)
Larsen, who represents Washington residents in the 2nd congressional district, shared how he is working to strengthen Social Security, protect Medicare and advocate for nutritional assistance for seniors through Meals on Wheels, three programs getting federal attention to benefit the state’s seniors.
“One of my top goals in Congress is to break down barriers citizens have to participating in our communities, in society in general and in our economy, as well,” Larsen said. “I’m sure you can guess that some of that work relates to helping our seniors.”
Larsen is committed to maintaining Social Security as a safety net that covers all seniors. After contributing to the program for a lifetime, he said, they are entitled to the benefits they have earned.
He supports a bill to make the benefit formula more generous when inflation rates are low by using a cost-of-living formula, taking into account the expense of seniors’ purchases and scrapping the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.
“Right now with the inflation rate being as low as it is, it brings a lot of great benefits to the community,” Larsen said, “but when we rely on that COLA (cost of living) formula, what that means is your benefit doesn’t increase year to year, but your own costs of living as a senior do continue to increase.”
Larsen also supports a measure to crack down on Medicare fraud to protect the program’s long-term viability and return taxpayer dollars to their rightful purpose.
The U.S. representative said the government is working to catch and punish the greedy physicians and physician groups that have fraud systems built into their practices.
Those systems could be as simple as seeking a reimbursement through Medicare for an expensive procedure or medication, when the physician actually provided or prescribed a similar but cheaper procedure or medication.
A Medicare fraud task force gets an 680 percent return on taxpayers’ investment, returning $6.80 for every $1 invested in fraud prevention and recovery.
“It’s unfortunate that there’s that much Medicare fraud, but when we devote time to fighting it, there’s a huge return back to Medicare for that,” Larsen said. “So those dollars go into your pockets for health care instead those who are perpetrating fraud.”
Meals on Wheels
Larsen also supports funding for senior nutrition assistant programs, such as Meals on Wheels, to address the needs of Washington’s aging population.
In 2015 alone, 12,200 Washington seniors were delivered 1.6 million meals through the program because they are unable either to prepare meals or have meals otherwise provided.
“A couple of years ago, I spent a day with the Meals on Wheels program delivering meals with volunteers,” Larsen said. “It gave me an opportunity to understand what it’s like to be a Meals on Wheels volunteer, but also to meet some of these seniors who [have trouble getting around].”
Recently, Congress reauthorized the Older Americans Act for another five years, a law passed in 1965 to support a range of home and community-based services, such as Meals on Wheels and other nutrition programs.
If you would like to learn more about Larsen’s goals and accomplishments as a seniors advocate in Congress, go to www.larsen.house.gov/issue/seniors.
The Mukilteo Seniors host a monthly luncheon on the third Monday of the month in the Point Elliott Room of the Rosehill Community Center. Lunch costs $5 for members, $7 for non-members.
The association serves residents 50 and older through a variety of programs and services. The organization has 130 members. Membership is $10 per person or $15 per couple.