• Woman says Social Security cost-of-living increase leaving her to pay for in-home health care

    By: Tenikka Smith


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Alonia Watson said Courtney, her in-home aide, is a lifesaver.

    The 84-year-old is disabled and needs help doing things like bathing and preparing meals.

    For years, Watson has received the in-home help through the Mecklenburg County Community Alternatives Program. 

    Her son, Tom, reached out to Eyewitness News after Watson got a call notifying her that because of the $33 cost-of-living increase she got from Social Security, she is now ineligible for Medicaid to continue paying for the program.

    "So for a $33 a month increase, she was going to have to pay out of pocket over $600 a month. That makes no sense to me at all,” Tom Wilson said.

    Watson is on a fixed income and said she can't afford it.

    "I'm very concerned about it because I don't know what I'm going to do,” Watson said. “I can’t stay here if they take it away."

    Eyewitness News took the family's concerns to the state Department of Health and Human Services. A spokesperson said the state recognized there was a problem and this summer passed legislation to try to prevent it.

    Starting next year, if a person in a medical assistance program gets a Social Security increase because of a cost-of-living adjustment, that increase can be disregarded when determining income eligibility for that program.  It will only apply to those whose cost-of-living increase takes effect on or after Jan. 1, 2013, which means it does not apply to Watson.

    "I can't even explain how frustrating it is," Watson said.  

    Wilson added, "A lot of people are going to be hurt by this. You're talking about starting something next year, we're talking about right now.  These people need help. Somebody needs to help them."

    A state spokesperson said it is waiting for approval from the federal government to incorporate the new state law into the state's Medicaid eligibility rules.

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