In this powerful 10-minute video featuring our Executive Director, Kevin Prindiville, the filmmaker explores the ageism inherent in the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This first episode of a series explores the widely-shared narrative that our elders should be sacrificed for the economy, as exemplified by comments from conservative political leaders suggesting that the economy has more value than the health and safety of vulnerable people. “Age and ageism is really strange type of othering, said Kevin. “Because we all hope to eventually grow older. But we tend to think of older people as a “them” and that allows us to make policy decisions that are not only harmful for that group, but for all of us.”
New York Times: Should Youth Come First in Coronavirus Care? (July 31, 2020)
This piece about the ethics of care rationing guidelines, should hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, featured our work opposing care standards that discriminate against older adults and people with disabilities illegally. We have filed a number of complaints, in coalition with others, in the Office of Civil Rights of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. In March, the Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed that the Affordable Care Act and other federal statutes prohibit discrimination, in health facilities receiving federal funds, on the basis of age, disability and other characteristics. But many guidelines persist in using “life years” as a criterion, or use age as a tiebreaker. “That would be bias, in our view,” said Regan Bailey, the director of litigation for Justice in Aging.
KJZZ: Justice in Aging Director: Coronavirus Exposes Deep-Seated Ageism (July 28, 2020)
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, we repeatedly heard that the virus primarily affects older adults — that older adults are more likely to die from it. But framing the coronavirus as something that impacts only “old people” exposed something else: rampant ageism. Kevin Prindiville is the executive director at Justice in Aging, a nonprofit legal advocacy group. “If the COVID crisis, right from the beginning, we knew it was disproportionately leading to the death of children, I think we would have been much faster to shut down as a society,” he said. “So that was the first really clear example of ageism. I think a next clear example would be the crisis care standards that many states rolled out across the country.”
July 20, 2020
In states that are hard hit by COVID-19 surges, older adults, people with disabilities, and people of color face a real risk of being denied life-saving medical care during the pandemic. This week, individuals represented by a coalition of state and national disability and civil rights advocacy groups filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) challenging the crisis standard of care plans in Arizona and Texas, two states hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
KPBS: San Diego County Won’t Disclose Which Assisted Living Homes Have COVID-19 Cases (July 22, 2020)
The Department of Social Services has published the names of 154 facilities with seven or more beds that have COVID-19 cases. In a statement, a spokesperson said another 96 smaller facilities have had cases but have not been named because it may allow the public to identify people who contracted the virus, which would violate health privacy laws.That decision has effectively denied the public access to valuable information, said Eric Carlson, an attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Justice in Aging. “Knowledge about the presence of COVID-19 is just incredibly important at this point,” Carlson said. “It’s not helpful for consumers and others to be deprived of that information.”
Truthout: Deregulated Under Trump, Nursing Homes are Becoming COVID Morgues (July 14, 2020)
As of late June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that the number of COVID-19 infections among nursing-home residents had exceeded 126,402 nationwide, in addition to about 78,692 suspected cases and 35,517 deaths — though CMS admits its data is incomplete, as the data reporting only goes back to mid-May, and not all facilities have been consistently reporting data. With proper infection controls, testing, and PPE, this tragedy could have been avoided, yet under the Trump Administration, long-term care facilities have been steadily deregulated. At the same time, state and federal officials are quietly working to grant legal immunity from wrongful death suits to health care facilities. Justice in Aging Directing Attorney, Eric Carlson argued that nursing homes do not need such broad immunity because courts would generally take the pandemic into account when weighing, for example, wrongful death lawsuits. By contrast, under blanket immunity, “providers wouldn’t be responsible, regardless of the facts — regardless of the short staffing, regardless of the poor management, and regardless of the poor care that might be provided,” Carlson says. “And this is not the time when we want to do anything to excuse poor care, because we need better care during this time, not worse care.”
New York Magazine Intelligencer, No One Should Be Surprised That America Abandoned the Elderly to Die, (July 9, 2020)
In the U.S., seniors are often an afterthought. Though elderly Americans receive Social Security and Medicare benefits that lift millions above the federal poverty line, other, more precise measures of economic hardship suggest that senior insecurity is higher in the U.S. than in many other wealthy countries. One survey found that half of all seniors who live alone lacked the means to cover basic expenses; among two-senior households, nearly a quarter reported the same. Many of those low-income seniors continue to work, or enter poorly regulated care facilities that can pose unique dangers to their health. “This is a group who is already living on the edge,” explained Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging. “Because they have low incomes. They have limited work opportunities. They have limited social support in their community. And then you add to that this virus, which is particularly dangerous for them. It just exacerbates all the challenges that they were living with before.”
For millions of people who weren’t required to file tax returns, including some people who receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, or make less than $12,200 a year, much needed stimulus payments were not automatic. Instead they had to fill out an online form, which sounds simple enough. But like Justice in Aging Directing Attorney, Tracey Gronniger, said for this article, “Someone who is familiar [with the process], who has a computer, internet service, a home, resources, and time to do these things is in a much better situation to actually receive a stimulus payment.”
Associated Press: Harrowing Blame Game Over COVID-19 in Nursing Homes (June 15, 2020)
The Trump administration has been pointing to a segment of the industry — facilities with low federal ratings for infection control — and to some Democratic governors who required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients. Advocates for older people say the federal government hasn’t provided needed virus testing and sufficient protective gear to allow nursing homes to operate safely. A White House directive to test all residents and staff has been met with an uneven response. “The lack of federal coordination certainly has impeded facilities’ ability to identify infected persons and to provide care,” Eric Carlson, a long-term care expert with the advocacy group Justice in Aging, told lawmakers.
Sacramento Bee: California Sets New Rules for Rationing Medical Equipment if Hospitals Run Out During Pandemic (June 12, 2020)
The California Department of Public Health has a new plan for that worst-case scenario. On June 9, the CDPH released new pandemic crisis care guidelines, after more than 60 community and advocacy organizations representing millions of Californians objected to the first set of guidelines the department released in April. “We are pleased that California rejected ageist, ableist, and racist approaches for triaging care that have emerged from other states during this crisis,” said Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging. “Instead, California has taken an approach that values the lives and rights of older adults and people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds.”