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Senate Hearings Focus on Non-Medical Supports in Medicare, Age-Friendly Communities

This week, two different Senate committees explored issues important to n4a members and reflected in our Policy Priorities: how to better coordinate care for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, and the value of age-friendly and livable communities.
 

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the CHRONIC Care Act, a bipartisan bill that the Committee then approved unanimously on Thursday. The bill—sponsored by Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and based on the work of the Chronic Care Working Group led by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mark Warner (D-VA)—aims to make modest improvements to Medicare to improve care coordination for those with complex health needs.

Watch a recording of the hearing.

Over the course of the working group, n4a pushed for recognition of the critical role of the Aging Network and other community-based organizations in improving health outcomes and lowering costs for beneficiaries.

One of the four witnesses addressed that issue: Katherine Hayes, Director of Health Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), focused her testimony on the importance of non-medical services and supports in improving health outcomes for seniors and reducing Medicare costs.

Ms. Hayes, who recently collaborated with n4a's Chief, Programs and Services Nora Super on a BPC panel focused on improving care for chronically-ill Medicare patients. Ms. Hayes expressed BPC's strong support for the legislation, noting that “Through the policy changes included in the CHRONIC Care Act, many frail and chronically ill Medicare patients could benefit from improved care coordination, access to care in the home and community setting, and availability of non-Medicare-covered social supports.”

During her testimony, Ms. Hayes also stressed the need for individualized care plans that are jointly constructed by providers, patients and their caregivers. These care plans would include many of the services AAAs across the country provide in communities, such as healthy home-delivered meals, non-emergency transportation to medical visits and case management services. This hearing brought important recognition and visibility to the role AAAs play in meeting seniors' individualized needs before their chronic illnesses manifest more seriously and lead to hospitalization.
 
On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on Aging With Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime which was a follow-up to its April 27 hearing on social isolation that featured n4a member Mark Clark of Pima Council on Aging in Tucson. (Read Mark's testimony and n4a's Statement.)

Four witnesses from across the country spoke to their communities' efforts to become more age-friendly, sharing their collected learnings and innovations with the Senate panel, which doesn't produce legislation, but shines an important spotlight on aging issues.

One of the efforts showcased by n4a in our 2015 report on livable communities, Making Your Community Livable for All Ages: What's Working! was represented at Wednesday's hearing: Cathy Bollinger of the York County Community Foundation spoke of that community's Embracing Aging initiative and offered the Senators powerful recommendations for transportation, housing and HCBS policy change that is needed to support efforts like York County's.

The other witnesses acknowledged the importance of their AAAs in these age-friendly campaigns, as well, with efforts in Maine, Miami and NYC touching on common challenges, as well as specific barriers to aging well in community, such as some of those faced in rural areas.

If you have questions about this article or the hearings, please contact Amy Gotwals, Chief, Public Policy & External Affairs

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