The National Council on Aging (NCOA) recently released a list of five recommendations for Congress to help American seniors in 2014.
1. Strengthen the Older Americans Act (OAA).
The OAA provides funding for critical services for seniors living independently at home, including nutrition, disease prevention, transportation and caregiver support. NCOA claims that funding has not kept pace with inflation or with the growing number of seniors, and that it has been further cut by the federal budget sequester. NCOA suggests that the OAA is overdue for reauthorization and should be both reauthorized and strengthened.
2. Make the Medicare QI program permanent.
The Medicare Qualified Individual (QI) program covers Medicare Part B premiums for seniors with income levels of 120-135% of the poverty level, helping low-income seniors afford visits to their doctors. QI has expired and been temporarily extended by Congress each year for several years. NCOA recommends Congress make the program permanent.
3. Renew the Farm Bill.
Upon renewal, the Farm Bill may increase funding for food banks and nutritional programs for seniors. However, Congress is pursuing cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
4. Introduce long-term care legislation.
Medicare does not cover long-term care; private insurance is too expensive for many, and Medicaid forces seniors to spend or give away their life savings before qualifying. Recently, the Long-Term Care Commission issued a report with recommendations for improving the situation. NCOA calls for a bipartisan effort to introduce reform legislation that would provide affordable options for families and savings for Medicaid.
5. Pass immigration reform.
NCOA says 20-23% of direct care workers (such as nursing aides and home health aides) are foreign-born. Immigration reform could help strengthen that workforce.
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