5 Ways the New Congress Can Support Older Americans and Their Families

NCOA outlines public policy priorities for 115th
Congress

ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With a new Administration and Congress arriving in January, 2017
promises historic debates that could significantly impact the lives of
older Americans and their families—today and tomorrow. Founded in 1950
as the first national senior advocacy organization, the National Council
on Aging (NCOA) will advocate for 5 priorities to help all Americans age
with health, economic security, and independence.

In the coming months, there will be important discussions about the
future of key programs that older Americans and their families depend
on—including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older
Americans Act,” said Howard Bedlin, NCOA Vice President of Public Policy
and Advocacy. “These programs are not just for today’s seniors. They
provide critical supports for all of us, and our families, as we grow
older. NCOA will work to find bipartisan opportunities to defend and
improve them.”

In 2017, NCOA will urge Congress to:

1. Protect and strengthen key provisions of the Affordable
Care Act (ACA)

According to the nonpartisan Urban Institute, more than 4.5 million
Americans aged 55-64 could lose their health insurance coverage under
the anticipated ACA repeal bill. Seniors over age 65 also could lose
important assistance that helps them stay healthy. NCOA is concerned
about the following ACA provisions, which we believe are in particular
jeopardy:

  • The Prevention and Public Health Fund, which invests in
    evidence-based programs that empower seniors to self-manage chronic
    conditions and prevent costly—and often fatal—falls.
  • The Community First Choice Option, which helps keep low-income
    seniors and people with disabilities out of nursing homes by providing
    more home and community-based services.
  • Medicaid expansion, which helps states provide health insurance
    coverage to low-income people aged 55-64 who are not yet eligible for
    Medicare.
  • Insurance premium limits, which restrict insurance companies
    from further raising health care premiums on people in their 50s and
    60s.

The American people deserve to see the details of a health care
replacement plan before Congress takes any vote to eliminate current
insurance coverage and consumer protections.

2. Improve Medicaid and reject cuts

Medicaid is a lifeline for poor older adults, providing coverage for
more than 6 million seniors in 2015. It pays for more than 60% of all
long-term care and makes hospital and doctor visits affordable for
low-income seniors by paying for Medicare premiums and cost-sharing.

NCOA urges Congress not to cut or change the fundamental structure of
our nation’s Medicaid health care safety net. Recent House budget
proposals would have cut Medicaid funding by more than $900 billion over
10 years and turn it into a block grant program. These changes would
shift rising health costs to states, individuals, and their families,
making it harder for poor seniors to remain at home and afford the
health care they need. These changes also could undermine current
consumer protections, including those that ensure nursing home quality
and financial protections for spouses of those who need long-term care.

3. Restore investments in programs that keep older adults
healthy and independent

With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, investments in senior
programs have failed to keep pace with the growing need. Nationwide,
millions of seniors no longer have access to meals, job placement
services, transportation, and caregiver support because these programs
have closed or have long waiting lists for the first time. Funding for
these non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs is approaching an
historic low as a share of the economy.

NCOA urges Congress to restore funding and invest in the Older Americans
Act, Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program, Senior
Community Services Employment Program, and Elder Justice Act. In
addition, Congress should reject cuts to programs that help vulnerable
seniors, such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program,
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Social Services Block Grant,
and Community Services Block Grant.

4. Defend and improve Medicare

Medicare is a guarantee that millions of seniors and individuals with
disabilities depend on. Congress must preserve its fundamental promise
and structure. Premium support proposals would give people with Medicare
a fixed dollar amount to pay for health care, instead of covering a
specific set of essential benefits and services. This would unfairly
place the burden of rising health costs onto people with Medicare, most
of whom have fixed incomes that do not keep pace with the rising cost of
living.

NCOA will work towards pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to strengthen
Medicare by:

  • Investing in outreach and enrollment for those who are eligible
    for low-income assistance, but are not receiving help.
  • No longer penalizing and denying assistance to seniors who did
    the right thing by saving a modest “nest egg” of assets while working.
  • Improving access for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple
    chronic conditions to evidence-based community programs that save
    money and improve quality of life.
  • Empowering beneficiaries with better information and tools to
    make good choices about affordable Medicare coverage that best meets
    their needs.

5. Improve access to home and community-based services and
family caregiver supports

Overwhelmingly, older adults want to stay in their own homes and
communities as long as possible. NCOA believes there are significant
bipartisan opportunities to save money and help families to delay or
avoid nursing home placement. Two examples include:

  • The Money Follows the Person Program, which assists states in
    making home and community-based services more widely available. It
    expired in October 2016, but the program has had strong bipartisan
    support and should be extended.
  • Legislation to support family caregivers, including bipartisan
    bills in the House and Senate that would provide a caregiver tax
    credit. President-elect Trump has highlighted this as a priority in
    his plan for the first 100 days.

NCOA has a 66-year history of serving older adults who are struggling,”
said Carol Zernial, NCOA Board Chair and Executive Director of the
WellMed Charitable Foundation in San Antonio, TX. “We will continue to
look for ways to support the seniors who helped build our country.”

To learn more about NCOA’s public policy priorities, please follow our Public
Policy Blog
, sign
up
for NCOA’s advocacy alerts, and join the conversation on social
media at #StandWithSeniors.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and
trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging.
Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults,
especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community
programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering
with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the
health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn
more at ncoa.org
and @NCOAging.

Contacts

National Council on Aging (NCOA)
Vanessa Sink, Public
Affairs Manager
571-527-4020
press@ncoa.org