The aim is to decrease federal spending, but cuts to the service could backfire by raising health-care costs, the program warned.
The spending plan calls for reductions to two grants that Meals on Wheels relies on in some locations, as well as to federal departments that help fund the program, spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette said in a statement. “With a stated 17.9 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services budget,” Bertolette said, “it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which these critical services would not be significantly and negatively impacted if enacted into law.”
The program, which delivers meals to individual homes and senior centers, feeds more than 2.4 million Americans 60 and older—more than half a million of them veterans. It delivers about 218 million meals a year, according to a Meals on Wheels fact sheet (PDF). Most recipients live alone, take more than six medications, and rely on these meals for at least half the food they consume.
One indirect benefit is that frail recipients getting proper nutrition are less likely to fall, and one day’s hospitalization costs the same as a year of Meals on Wheels, the program says on its website. Such accidents cost $31 billion in 2015 in Medicare expenses alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. “Seniors remaining at home, out of hospitals and nursing homes, saves billions in Medicare and Medicaid costs,” the program says.