Big Budget Win in California: Vital Programs Preserved

By | CA Health Network Alert, Newsroom

Enormous Win: Advocates Beat Back Cuts to Programs for Low-Income Older Adults

Governor Newsom and the California Legislature announced yesterday that they have come to a budget agreement that will preserve the vital programs low-income older adults rely on for their health and safety. This final budget agreement preserves the critical programs that will help those most at risk from the pandemic—older Black, Latinx, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders—access health care services they need. We thank the Governor and Legislature for preserving programs that help people access services at home and in the community so that at-risk older adults are not forced to seek care in nursing facilities, which are particularly dangerous during the pandemic.

Programs Preserved 

  • Home and Community-Based Services. The budget preserves Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS), the Multi-Purpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). Maintaining these programs reduces the need for older adults to seek care in nursing homes or other congregate settings in which over fifty percent of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred.
  • Medi-Cal Coverage and Benefits. The budget preserves Medi-Cal coverage for seniors and people with disabilities with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; maintains current Medi-Cal estate recovery rules; and preserves current dental and other critical Medi-Cal benefits. Unfortunately, however, the final agreement does not extend Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented seniors, leaving thousands who are at most risk during this pandemic without access to health care.
  • SSI/SSP. The budget maintains current SSI/SSP benefit levels.
  • Other Senior Programs. The budget preserves senior nutrition, caregiver resource centers, long-term care ombudsman, aging and disability resource centers, and Independent Living Centers.

While this budget agreement preserves existing programs older Californians need, without increased revenues, cuts still loom and racial inequities remain unaddressed. Justice in Aging will continue to advocate both federally and at the state level for additional revenue to ensure cuts are not made in the future and that investments are made at the state level to address the racial disparities in our institutions and programs. Today, however, we celebrate California’s preservation of existing support programs for older adults.

Harrowing Blame Game Over COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

By | IN THE NEWS, Long Term Care, Medicaid, Newsroom, Nursing Homes

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.

Trump Administration’s Roll-back of Health Care Rights Is Another Attack

By | Newsroom, Statements

The Trump Administration has once again blatantly attacked the civil rights of low-income older adults who are LGBTQ, limited English proficient (LEP), and others who experience discrimination in health care in our country. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights finalized dangerous and far reaching changes to regulations implementing the Health Care Rights Law, also known as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in health programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

The new rule attempts to eliminate protections for LEP individuals and the rights of LGBTQ people, despite today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision applying Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibitions to LGBT employees. It also attempts to significantly limit the way that victims of any type of discrimination can seek redress under the law. The rule guts enforcement of the only federal law designed to protect against discrimination in health care.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill people of color, especially older adults and those with disabilities, at disproportionate rates due to the systemic racism that pervades both our health care system and other aspects of life, rolling back these protections is both a racist and dangerous decision. In issuing these changes, the HHS Office for Civil Rights is defying its mandate and profound duty to protect the civil rights of these communities.

Most importantly, this is a cruel, extremist, and transparent political attack on older adults and people with disabilities who are LGBTQ and/or LEP. Because older adults have lived experiences at the intersection with other identities, an attack on the rights of LGBTQ and LEP older adults is an attack on older adults of color:

Justice in Aging is committed to fighting for robust enforcement of the Health Care Rights Law and calls on this Administration to reverse course, restore the critical protections it took away, and be a defender of civil rights.

California Seniors are Worried About These Cuts in Gavin Newsom’s New Budget. Here’s Why

By | Health Disparities, Health Equity, IN THE NEWS, Medicaid, Newsroom

Sacramento Bee: California Seniors are Worried About These Cuts in Gavin Newsom’s New Budget. Here’s Why (May 26, 2020)

Newsom’s revised budget plan, announced earlier this month, seeks to close a projected $54.3 billion budget deficit brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. It includes about $646 million in proposed cuts that worry seniors and their advocates because they would reduce health care options and access to programs that allow elderly residents to stay at home and out of nursing homes, which have been hotbeds for COVID-19 outbreaks. Claire Ramsey, senior staff attorney at Justice in Aging, said the May budget plan in all “proposes severe and devastating cuts to the very programs that keep older adults and people with disabilities living safely in their home.”

“Just” Old People Are Dying: Ageism and the Coronavirus Response

By | Health Equity, IN THE NEWS, Long Term Care, Medicaid, Newsroom, Uncategorized

KQED Forum: “Just” Old People Are Dying: Ageism and the Coronavirus Response (May 21, 2020)

Nearly 80% of those who have died from COVID-19 in California were over the age of 65, yet health care for seniors was slashed in the Governor’s proposed state budget. Advocates for the elderly say its just another example of ageism, which has been exacerbated during the pandemic. From suggestions that old peoples lives be sacrificed for the sake of the economy to the struggle to get PPE and tests in nursing homes, guests on the show discussed the role ageism is playing in the coronavirus response. Justice in Aging Executive Director, Kevin Prindiville was a guest on the show.

How Newsom Budget Yanks Back Medi-Cal Health Care Gains for Low-Income Residents

By | Health Disparities, Health Equity, IN THE NEWS, Medicaid, Newsroom

Cal Matters: How Newsom Budget Yanks Back Medi-Cal Health Care Gains for Low-Income Residents (May 18, 2020)

The state’s revised budget released last week shows that the Golden State’s new economic reality will almost certainly hit the Medi-Cal program with cuts in services and provider rates, as well as rescinded expansions. The list of proposed changes is sweeping, from canceling coverage expansion to more older Californians – including undocumented seniors – to cuts in some adult dental services.

“I think there will be a huge effort within the next few weeks to see whether we can push back on this,” Ramsey said. “If we don’t get to go forward now, it will likely take years.”

Medicare Applications Raise Anxiety for Seniors in Pandemic

By | IN THE NEWS, Medicare, Newsroom, Social Security

Associated Press: Medicare Applications Raise Anxiety for Seniors in Pandemic, (April 29, 2020)

This article discusses how difficult it is for seniors to apply for Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic because Social Security determines eligibility for Part B, and Social Security offices are closed and working at diminished capacity. Additionally, people over 65 who were still working and had health insurance through work and are now getting laid off, face significant barriers in getting through the Medicare application process. Advocates would like seniors to be held harmless from penalties for failing to apply on time. The reporter interviewed Justice in Aging attorney, Natalie Kean, for the piece who said, “Going through the normal channels is just going to be slow, and it’s not responsive to the increased need right now.”

Federal Government Should Require Transparency Regarding COVID-19 in Nursing Facilities

By | Newsroom, Statements

Justice in Aging calls on the federal government to immediately require that nursing facilities be completely transparent regarding the presence of COVID-19.

Since early March, when COVID-19 rushed through a Seattle-area nursing facility, it has become clear that transparency regarding the presence of COVID-19 in nursing facilities and other institutional settings is vital. Yet, more than six weeks later, secrecy remains the norm.

Late Sunday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a “transparency effort” regarding nursing facilities and COVID-19. But this effort hasn’t yet made any changes. It merely establishes the agency’s intent to release regulations and other technical guidance. The promised regulations will require only that facilities disclose information to residents and their representatives. And the promised technical guidance will require that facilities submit information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, without clear indication on if and how that information will be shared with the general public.

Some states already are posting facility-specific lists that include the number of residents and staff members with COVID-19 infections, and the number of fatalities attributable to a facility. There is no reason why at least this level of disclosure could not be the standard across the country.

CMS should immediately require nursing facilities to disclose the number of residents who are COVID-positive, the number of staff members who are COVID-positive, and the number of fatalities attributable to COVID-19 from the facility. And this data must be broken down by age and race to provide a complete picture of how the disease is progressing through our communities. This information must be posted at the facility and on its website, communicated to residents’ family members and representatives, and shared with CMS and the state survey and certification agency. In turn, the state must be required to compile this information and share it online. Nursing facility residents and their families deserve this level of transparency.

Seniors are sick with coronavirus and need special care. But hospitals and nursing homes are in conflict about who takes on the less-critical patients

By | IN THE NEWS, Newsroom, Nursing Homes

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Seniors are Sick with Coronavirus and Need Special Care. but Hospitals and Nursing Homes are in Conflict about who Takes on the Less Critical of Patients (April 15, 2020)

With nearly 1,400 cases of COVID-19 now reported in long-term care facilities in Florida, hospitals are discharging some patients who have improved back into nursing homes. Hospitals officials say they need to clear out patients who no longer need acute care. But nursing homes don’t want to take the patients discharged from hospitals for fear they’ll bring the coronavirus with them and spread it.Justice in Aging attorney Eric Carlson is concerned. “If you are admitting someone who you know has the virus, that cuts against all the tremendous focus that has been placed on not allowing the virus inside the four walls of the nursing facility,” he said. “Infection prevention and adequate staffing in nursing homes have been sore points even in better days.”