Older Americans Act reauthorization proposed

Updated Jan. 28, 2015, to include NCOA comments.

Legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act was introduced in the Senate today.

In addition to funding home- and community-based services (HCBS) to enable seniors to continuing living independently, “this bill also strengthens the program to help ensure quality of care in nursing homes—giving peace of mind to residents and their families,” U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said in a statement. He and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash), with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), introduced the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, also known as Senate Bill 192.

Through grants to states, the act supports social and nutrition services—from Meals on Wheels, to elder abuse programs to senior centers—for older adults. In addition, the reauthorization aims to protect vulnerable elders from abuse by increasing existing abuse screening and prevention efforts, including programs to ensure that all residents of long-term care facilities have access to an ombudsman, according to its sponsors. The reauthorization also has goals of streamlining federal-level administration of programs, promoting effective use of transportation services and improving coordination between programs at the federal, state and local levels. Additionally, the reauthorization also adjusts the formula that allots state grants to account for geographic changes in the older population; no state would see a reduction in Title III funding of more than one percent, however.

The legislation also calls for the creation of a tool that would assist consumers in selecting HCBS.

LeadingAge says it “strongly supports” the bill and is asking members to contact their senators to ask them to co-sponsor it. “We have been advocating for more choices for consumers,” the organization noted in a statement. “There are times when older adults and caregivers are only given contact lists of one provider type. LeadingAge members have innovative services that would help older adults age in place.”

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is urging the full Senate to vote on the bill as soon as possible. “S. 192 reflects many of NCOA’s top priorities, including new resources to modernize multipurpose senior centers, a focus on seniors’ economic needs, requiring health promotion and disease prevention initiatives to be evidence-based, and promoting chronic disease self-management and falls prevention,” the organization said in a statement. “NCOA also supports the inclusion of stronger elder justice and legal services provisions, needed clarity for caregiver support and Aging and Disability Resource Centers, and new opportunities for intergenerational shared sites.”

The Older Americans Act originally was introduced in 1964 and was last reauthorized 2011, although the programs have continued to receive appropriations each year, including $1.9 billion in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

See the proposed legislation here [PDF]. See what else leaders from LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association have to say about the Older Americans Act here.

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