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Long-Term Care's Lawmakers

October 1, 2002
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The Congresspeople who stand up for the field, according to industry associations By Douglas J. Edwards, Assistant Editor
BY DOUGLAS J. EDWARDS, ASSISTANT EDITOR It has long been politically fashionable to bash nursing homes and long-term care-especially before an election. Candidates vying for office often adopt a "get tough with nursing homes" attitude to score points with voters. While moralistic posturing makes for good sound bites, it does nothing to address the field's profound problems with reimbursement and regulation. Fortunately, there are exceptions, even on Capitol Hill.

Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management recently asked the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) to point to federal lawmakers they believe are advancing the cause, not hindering it. Five legislators, in particular, emerged with positive responses from AHCA and AAHSA, although there were more (See "Honorary Mentions"). Also, the highly experienced and ever-articulate Paul R. Willging, PhD, ALFA president and CEO, discusses the "friends" of assisted living in the accompanying sidebar. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) Michael Hogan, Director of Legislative Affairs, AHCA: "Since taking over as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2001, Sen. Breaux has not skipped a beat in carrying forward the mantle of advocating for nursing home residents. He has held several hearings on abuse prevention and elderly protection across settings and at home. He has had his eye on the demographics, and works diligently to develop a long-term care system that is effective for seniors in advance of the baby-boom retirement wave... Breaux is famous for his moderate, 'get the job done' approach to legislating that leaves partisan politics out of the equation.... He is a staunch advocate for increased staffing, and he knows that more nursing homes need help and resources than need punishment."

William Bruno, Director of Congressional Affairs, AAHSA: "Sen. Breaux's leadership on long-term care issues is and will continue to be invaluable in reforming our long-term care financing system and preparing it for the rest of the 21st century. His ability to foster bipartisan compromise, his deep knowledge of these complex issues and his commitment of time and energy have been deeply appreciated. Most recently, his support for 'Quality First: A Covenant for Healthy, Affordable and Ethical Long Term Care' has helped give this important initiative a strong start."

For more information on Sen. Breaux, visit http://breaux.senate.gov Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) Hogan: "Congressman Camp serves on the House Ways and Means Committee-the committee in charge of Medicare. Congressman Camp is the sponsor of H.R. 4030, the Medicare and Medicaid Nursing Facility Quality Improvement Act of 2002. This legislation would correct problems in the nursing facility oversight system that impede quality improvement. Camp has also been active in support of the tax deductibility of long-term care insurance, Medicare payment for dialysis service, the House prescription drug task force and many other proposals to help the elderly and disabled we serve."

Bruno: "Rep. Camp has been a true champion of quality long-term care for America's seniors. His legislation, H.R. 4030, will help foster innovative care practices and make it easier for front-line caregivers to provide quality care to residents, and it will also cut through much of the bureaucratic red tape that is so demoralizing for professionals in this field and so counterproductive to serving residents."

For more information on Rep. Camp, visit www.house.gov/camp Sen. Tom Harkin (D-lowa) Hogan: "Sen. Harkin, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, is responsible for setting funding levels for such things as medical research, provider over-sight and the just-passed Nurse Reinvestment Act to address the staffing short-age. Harkin also serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has jurisdiction over health professions and many other issues. Harkin is the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has been a leader in the fight to ensure appropriate services for the elderly and disabled."

Bruno: "Sen. Harkin was instrumental in getting a 9% increase in funding for Older Americans Act programs in fiscal year 2002. He also added provisions to that spending bill for an Interagency Task Force on Aging Programs, to better coordinate the services that federal and state governments provide to seniors."