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29 Jan, 2014

U.S. Ageing Society Seeks Immigration Reform to Allow in More Care-givers


WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 28, 2014 – With close to one-quarter of voters this November expected to be over age 65, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) suggests five ways Congress can help seniors this year—especially those in greatest need.

1. Restore funding for and modernize aging services

The Older Americans Act (OAA) funds critical services that help seniors stay healthy, independent, and economically secure in their own homes. These include programs like senior nutrition, prevention, caregiver support, and transportation.

Senior services are facing a double whammy—funding has not kept up with inflation or the growing population of seniors and the federal budget sequester has caused even deeper cuts.

There is good news in the FY14 budget agreement, which includes new investments to prevent elder falls, increases for Alzheimer’s disease strategies, and restored funding for senior nutrition. But more action is needed. At a minimum, funding for aging services should be returned to pre-sequester levels.

The OAA also is overdue for reauthorization—an opportunity to strengthen the bill for today’s older population. Bipartisan momentum is building to vote on reauthorization this year, including provisions to modernize senior centers, improve access to evidence-based prevention, and reduce elder abuse.

2. Protect low-income Medicare beneficiaries

The Medicare Qualified Individual (QI) program pays Medicare Part B premiums for beneficiaries whose incomes are 120-135% of poverty—about $13,700-$15,300 per year. Without this assistance, these seniors would not be able to afford doctor visits.

In recent years, QI has expired each Dec. 31, but Congress has temporarily extended it along with fixes to Medicare physician payments. This year, momentum is building to permanently fix Medicare physician payments. Congress should make the QI program permanent at the same time and fund outreach to help low-income seniors access this and other benefits.

3. Renew the Farm Bill to help fight senior hunger

The Farm Bill renewal is poised to boost funding for the nation’s food banks, transition the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to a seniors-only program, and test using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for nonprofit grocery delivery programs for seniors.

Yet, Congress continues to pursue SNAP cuts—on top of an $11 billion cut in November. The latest proposal would eliminate as much as $8.6 billion in benefits. SNAP helps nearly 4 million older adults pay for healthy food each month.

4. Introduce long-term care legislation

The number of Americans needing long-term services and supports will more than double as the boomers age. Medicare does not cover them, and private insurance is unaffordable for most people. The current system places enormous burdens on family caregivers and forces seniors to spend-down their life savings into poverty before getting help from Medicaid. A recent Long-Term Care Commission report included recommendations to improve the system.

Bi-partisan leadership is needed to introduce legislation to provide affordable options for Americans that do not exclude purchasers based on pre-existing conditions and that produce significant savings to Medicaid. Education on the facts also is critical.

5. Pass immigration reform

Comprehensive immigration reform would strengthen the direct care workforce, 20-23% of whom are foreign born. Direct care workers provide home care and other services that allow seniors to stay independent. Reform also would produce economic benefits to Medicare and Social Security by increasing the number of younger workers paying into these funds.

For more information, please visit www.ncoa.org/Act.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the nation’s leading nonprofit service and advocacy organization representing older adults and the community organizations that serve them. Our goal is to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. For more than 60 years, NCOA has been a trusted voice and innovative problem-solver helping seniors navigate the challenges of aging in America. We work with local and national partners to give older adults tools and information to stay healthy and secure, and we advocate for programs and policies to improve the lives of all seniors, especially the most vulnerable. For more information, please visit www.ncoa.org.