Elder Lobby Day February 27

Hundreds of Elders Take Issues To New Legislative Session

Contact: Al Norman, Mass Home Care, 978-502-3794, info@masshomecare.org

Elder advocacy groups from across the state will be gathering at the State House on Monday, February 27th to address the needs of the growing elderly population in Massachusetts. By the 2020 US Census, the 60 and older population will represent almost one out of every four Baystate  residents.

Elder rights groups will be presenting their legislative agendas ranging from bills on health care, home care, income security, dental care, food stamps, Medicaid eligibility, and workforce wages.

There are currently 14  sponsoring groups coming for Elder Lobby Day: AARP Massachusetts, Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts & New Hampshire Chapter, Coalition for Elder Economic Security, Disability Advocates Advancing Our Health Care Rights, Jewish Community Relations Council, Home Care Aide Council of Massachusetts, Home Care Alliance, LGBT Aging Project, Mass Chapter of the National Elder Law Attorneys, Mass Council for Adult Foster Care, Mass Home Care, Mass Law Reform Institute, Mass Senior Action Council, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Cuts to Adult Foster Care begin in 28 days

The countdown to cuts is on. On March 1, the Baker Administration will begin cutting as much as $5.6 million from the Adult Foster Care program. The cuts will continue through the last four months of the fiscal year.

“We are running out of time to protect the elderly and people with disabilities,” said Linda Andrade of the Mass Council on Adult Foster Care. “Adult Foster Care is one of the premier ‘community first’ programs in the Commonwealth. The population in need is growing, and our budget should be growing to meet that need.”

Next year, the program could lose as much as $22.6 million.

Adult Foster Care is a program that allows elderly and disabled people to move in with a host family that provides 24/7 support. The average cost per client is less than $21,000 a year. Comparable round-the-clock support at a nursing facility can cost up to four or five times more.

“Community programs like this one make programmatic sense and financial sense,” noted Al Norman of Mass Home Care. “It just makes no sense to cut back community programs that help keep people out of costlier institutions.”

“Individuals with disabilities want to live in a home, in the community,” added Gary Blumenthal, CEO of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers. “Adult Foster Care is one of the few round-the-clock care programs that takes place in a home setting. That is why consumers are attracted to it.”

Governor Baker used his executive powers to make $5.6 million in 9C cuts to this MassHealth service for low-income individuals. These cuts amount to a 9-percent rate cut for providers. The cuts will undermine the program and can harm those who receive Adult Foster Care services and support, including caregivers who receive visits and oversight.

Andrade, Norman and Blumenthal agreed that the Adult Foster Care program is on the verge of a crisis. Adult Foster Care providers have indicated that sizeable funding reductions to their individual programs may make this innovative cost-saving program impossible to operate.

“It is imperative that the governor rescind this 9C reduction or that the Legislature overturn this reduction in a FY 17 Supplemental Budget appropriation,” concluded Al Norman.

Civil Rights & the Older Americans Act

Martin Luther King Jr. day is upon us which makes me think of civil rights. Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s that led to the Civil Rights Act being passed as legislation in 1965.

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech Dr. King referred to the Declaration of Independence as a “promissory note” which “was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King had an unshakable belief that all people should be treated equal. This equality includes all people, regardless of any differences, including age and ability. The civil rights movement encompassed positive changes for Americans aged 60 and over.

The Older Americans Act, which also passed in 1965, provides for adequate income in retirement, adequate health care, housing, long-term care, recreation community services, freedom and self-determination, and protection against abuse, neglect, and exploitation for people aged 60 and older.

As we age, we are prone to illness, disability and often lower income. All of this creates unique civil rights challenges. The older American act and its subsequent amendments are there to help support the rights of older Americans.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services 1 in 5 people over the age of 60 are in some way serviced by the Older Americans Act. There is now an infrastructure across the United States known as the national aging services network. This network’s key service includes information and referral services. Regardless of where you live in the United States if you need homemaker or personal care services, home delivered or congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health service, job training, transportation, legal assistance, or elder abuse prevention resources you can find that information at your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). SeniorCare Inc. is the local AAA for nine towns on the North Beverly, Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

Unfortunately, older Americans are not recognized as a constitutionally protected class, however, additional legislation has been passed throughout the years to further protect the vulnerabilities of aging. Such as the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed, this piece of legislation protects applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

As we contemplate Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence on the fight for fairness and equality next Monday, let’s not forget that equality, love, support, and compassion all are of the same family. We must ensure that all Americans are treated with respect and dignity, regardless of difference, ability and age. As President Obama said in farewell address to the Nation “For all our outward differences we are all in this together …we rise or fall as one.”

BILL AIMED AT ASSISTING FAMILY CAREGIVERS NEARS BAKER’S DESK

statehousenewsBy Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

People looking after ill and aging family members would be given more information to aid in their care, under a bill now approved by both branches of the state Legislature.

The Senate on Thursday passed the CARE Act — for “caregiver advice and records enablement” — that requires hospitals to let patients designate a caregiver, who would be able to access their health information.

When the patient is discharged or transferred, hospital staff would provide the caregiver with a copy of the patient’s discharge plan and discuss after-care needs. During that discussion, the staff would demonstrate tasks the caregiver will need to perform, provide information on community resources, and answer questions from the patient and caregiver.

Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who sponsored the original version of the legislation along with Rep. Chris Walsh, expressed a need to provide support for people who are caring for spouses or parents as they age.

“We know the importance of really trying to keep people in their homes and in the community,” Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, said on the Senate floor.

According to the AARP, more than 844,000 Massachusetts residents are caring for an aging relative and helping them live independently in their own homes, and 55 percent of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their relative needs.

At least 18 states have CARE acts in place, according to the AARP.

The Senate’s approval of the bill (H 3911) comes after the House passed it on Aug. 18. A final vote in each branch would send the bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, said he hopes Baker will sign the bill, which he described as a “commonsensical action” that will make sure people are properly cared for and “do not get lost” when coming home from a hospital or otherwise moving among facilities.

“We all know how difficult it can be when we are caring for a loved one and there is about to be a transition from one modality of care to another or into the community,” Tarr said before the bill was passed.

National Family Caregivers Month, 2016

 

seal_of_the_president_of_the_united_states-svgBY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Our Nation was founded on the fundamental ideal that we all do better when we look out for one another, and every day, millions of Americans from every walk of life balance their own needs with those of their loved ones as caregivers. During National Family Caregivers Month, we reaffirm our support for those who give of themselves to be there for their family, friends, and neighbors in challenging times, and we pledge to carry forward the progress we have made in our health care system and workplaces to give caregivers the resources and flexibility they need.

Each of us may find ourselves in need of or providing care at some point in our lives. That is why it is imperative that we maintain and expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At the time Medicare was created, only a little more than half of all seniors had some form of health insurance. Today, the ACA has given older Americans better care and more access to discounted prescriptions and certain preventive services at no cost. The ACA has also expanded options for home- and community-based services, so that, with the help of devoted, loving caregivers, more Americans are now able to live independently and with dignity. And because looking after an aging family member or a friend with a disability can be challenging, States and local agencies connect individuals with caregiver support groups and respite care. The women and men who put their loved ones before themselves show incredible generosity every day, and we must continue to support them in every task they selflessly carry out.

Many devoted caregivers across our country also attend to members of our Armed Forces when they return home, and my Administration is committed to improving the care and support our veterans and their families receive. For over 5 years, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative has worked to ensure those who look after our service members who come home with the wounds of war — whether they are visible or not — have the community and Government support they need to help their siblings and spouses, parents and children, neighbors and friends through one of the greatest battles they may face: the fight to recover and heal.

This month, and every month, let us lift up all those who work to tirelessly advance the health and wellness of those they love. Let us encourage those who choose to be caregivers and look toward a future where our politics and our policies reflect the selflessness and open-hearted empathy they show their loved ones every day.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2016 as National Family Caregivers Month. I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/31/presidential-proclamation-national-family-caregivers-month-2016

Mass Home Care September 1 Newsletter Now Available

MassHomeCareMass Home Care, a statewide network of nonprofits aimed at helping elderly people enjoy life in the least restrictive setting possible, publishes a monthly newsletter discussing various legislative issues regarding Elders and Adults with Disabilities. This month’s edition features:
  • Home Care Wait Lists Start September 1st.
  • Senate Passes Elder Workforce & Elder Abuse Bill
  • Rate Shock for Group Long Term Care Insurance
  • ASAPs Awarded Health Policy Commission Innovation Grants
  • Advocates Ask Congress For Spousal Asset Limit Change
  • Study Says ObamaCare Makes People Healthier
  • Many Elders’ Health Deteriorates While In A Hospital
  • Health Policy Commission On Dental Health Needs

Read Newsletter Here

“Rightsized” Budget for Fiscal year 2017 Will Mean Elders On Home Care Wait Lists

MassachusettsMass Home Care, an elder rights group says that seniors will be put on a wait list for home care as a result of cuts made in the final days of the FY17 budget process.

“We need to reduce our caseload by 628 elders per month for the entire year,” explained Mass Home Care President Greg Giuliano. “The General Court left us roughly $4 million short of what we need to maintain our current home care programs.” Giuliano said the Conference Committee budget sent to the Governor produced an appropriation lower than either the House or Senate versions of the budget. “Usually lawmakers compromise on a number between the high and low mark—but this year they went below the low mark—and guaranteed waiting lists.”

Elder Home Care begins FY17 facing a shortfall that translates into 349 elders per month in the enhanced home care program, and 279 elders per month in basic home care, for a total of 628 elders per month in FY17 who will not receive needed services.

These core home care items in the final budget are lower than FY16 appropriations:

Line Item FY16 GAA FY17 Gov FY17 House FY17 Senate FY17 FINAL
9110-1500 ECOP $ 70,255,327               0 $  74,345,122              0 $70,548,399
9110-1630 HCPOS $104,595,483 $158,143,535 $101,485,589 $158,143,536 $102,570,589
9110-1633 HC  CM $35,546,961 $  51,482,919 $   33,795,743 $  52,557,919 $33,795,743
TOTALS $210,397,771 $209,626,454 $209,626,454 $210,701,455 $206,914,731

The Governor vetoed language that would require MassHealth to apply for two state plan amendments that would bring in more than $20 million in new federal revenue that could be used for home care services. Giuliano said this veto “leaves federal dollars on the table at a time we are cutting elders off home care.”

Although lawmakers agreed to a $1.075 million home care expansion for the “near poor” who are slightly over the program’s income cap, Giuliano said he is concerned that advocates will have to fight to make the program happen.

Waiting lists for home care have been a chronic problem for the elderly, Giuliano said. In FY 2013, for example, as many as 2,000 elders were on a wait list for home care for much of the program year.

“We say Massachusetts is a ‘community first’ state,” Giuliano said. “But in most parts of the state there is no wait to get into a nursing facility. These home care cuts send exactly the wrong message to families.” Nursing home use has dropped more than one-third since the year 2000, largely due to home care services, but access to home care too often is sporadic.

“We can keep 5 or 6 elders in home care for the cost of one person in an institution,” Giuliano said, “so closing off home care is financially a bad deal for taxpayers.”

Mass Home Care said it will urge lawmakers to restore the cuts in home care funding through a supplemental budget, restore the state plan amendment language cut by the Governor, and push for implementation of the $1 million ‘near poor’ home care pilot project.

 

Medicare Counseling Funding at Risk

SHINE CounselingHelp Us to Save This Critical Program.

NOW is a critical time to tell your members of Congress to reject this proposed cut and make needed investments in SHIP (SHINE).

SHINE, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, provides free health insurance information, counseling, and assistance regarding Medicare to Massachusetts residents and their caregivers. SHINE is administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs in coordination with local agencies.

SHINE Volunteers provide counseling throughout the Commonwealth at a variety of locations, including hospitals, Councils on Aging and Elder Service Agencies such as SeniorCare.

SeniorCare’s front desk and Information & Referral Department field calls regularly from people confused by the complexity of the Medicare choices they must make. The number of calls coming into the agency increase significantly each autumn during Medicare’s Open Enrollment period. SHINE Counselors meet and provide advice to first time enrollees and to those needing to review and possibly adjust their plans.

SHINE Program at Risk

Last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill with a nearly unanimous vote of 29-1.

While there were some increases in aging services,the Committee proposed that the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP, known as SHINE in Massachusetts) lose all of its $52.1 million in funding, effectively eliminating the program.

Now is a critical time to tell your members of Congress to reject this proposed cut and make needed investments in SHIP (SHINE).

More Information

How to Contact Your Representatives

Senator Ed Markey
www.markey.senate.gov

Senator Elizabeth Warren
www.warren.senate.gov

Congressman Seth Moulton
www.moulton.house.gov