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.

Black Lives Matter

By | Alerts, PRESS RELEASE, Statements
The past few days and weeks have laid bare the toxic racism and white supremacy that are woven into the fabric of America, every one of our systems, and every single town and city. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and the harassment of Christian Cooper are not single, unique instances, but rather examples of the long-standing, pervasive, ongoing, systemic racism that infects our culture, government, and systems of power.

In America today, if you are a Black person, you encounter the potentially deadly effects of racism at every stage of your life. From schools that perpetuate the school to prison pipeline, to the community, where harassment and over-policing directed at Black people is the norm, to biases in the health care systems that contribute to health inequities, institutionalization in poorly performing nursing homes, and even early death. This is why we are seeing shockingly high rates of deaths from COVID-19 among Black people. We are witnessing communities of color losing people of all ages at an alarming rate. Read More

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.

Principles of a Master Plan on Aging for all Californians

By | CA Health Network Alert, Safety Net Defense, SENIOR POVERTY, Statements

In January, Governor Newsom called for a Master Plan on Aging in his State of the State address, and concurrently members of the legislature introduced several bills aimed at addressing California’s growing aging population. The need is urgent as California’s population ages and grows poorer. California’s population of older adults is expected to almost double over the next twenty years. Today, one in five seniors in California live at or below the poverty level, with women and populations of color experiencing poverty at higher rates. Without a dedicated plan and resources to address California’s aging population, many more older adults will fall into poverty in their later years.

As lawmakers work to revise the 2020 budget this month, we urge them to direct funding toward a comprehensive Master Plan that addresses the struggles of the poorest Californians, is centered on equity, makes provision for a robust long-term care system, and is both intergenerational and intersectional.

We laid out a set of principles that we urge policymakers to consider and incorporate in the Master Plan to help those Californians who are struggling the most, and also middle class older adults, families, and all of our communities. We have the political momentum to address the needs of California’s aging population. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right and help all Californians age in dignity and justice.

Read the principles.

Letter in Support of the Medicare Dental Benefit Act

By | Statements

In January , 2019, Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced the Medicare Dental Benefit Act of 2019, which amends the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of dental services under the Medicare program. Oral health is a key component of overall health and this new legislation is a critical step in improving the health and well-being of older adults and people with disabilities. Justice in Aging joined with Families USA, Oral Health America, and Center for Medicare Advocacy to thank Senator Cardin for his leadership on the issue. Read the letter.

Justice in Aging Statement on Affordable Care Act Decision in Texas

By | Statements

Last Friday, a Federal District Court in Texas issued a decision declaring the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety unconstitutional. The judge’s reasoning has been widely criticized and legal scholars contend that it is unlikely the decision will be upheld on appeal. Nevertheless, the ruling sowed confusion and uncertainty on the eve of the ACA Marketplace enrollment deadline and furthers the harm caused by the Trump Administration’s and Congress’s actions to undermine the ACA.

If the ruling were to stand, the implications for older adults would be catastrophic. Over 4.5 million older adults age 55-64 who have coverage through the Marketplaces and Medicaid expansion would lose access to health care. For millions more, health care would become either unaffordable or unattainable because health insurance companies would again be permitted to charge older adults more based on age and deny coverage to the 8 out of 10 older adults with a preexisting condition.

The ACA’s Medicare provisions would also be rolled back. Medicare enrollees would face higher prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket spending on preventive services that are currently free pursuant to the ACA. Further, the savings from the ACA that extended the life of the Medicare trust fund would be eliminated, placing Medicare at risk for dramatic cuts through the budget, vouchers, and privatization. These are costs that seniors simply cannot afford.

Despite the judge’s ruling, the ACA remains the law today and older Americans can continue to rely on the ACA’s protections and coverage. By joining together, we have successfully prevented previous attempts strike down the ACA. That fight continues to ensure older adults have access to affordable and quality health care as they age.

Justice in Aging’s Letter to California’s Governor Elect Gavin Newsom

By | Statements

Gavin Newsom, California’s new governor, will begin his term among a growing crisis of senior poverty in the state. It will be critical that the Governor Elect create a master plan for aging that includes an aggressive, progressive approach to solve the root causes of senior poverty including high housing costs and high out-of-pocket medical costs, while increasing access to critical benefits that help California’s seniors get the help they need to make ends meet. Justice in Aging sent the new governor a letter congratulating him on being elected and outlining some of the critical investments in older adults we hope to see and work together with the administration to achieve.

Statement: Threats to Transgender Older Adults

By | Newsroom, Statements

The Trump Administration has indicated it intends to eliminate the rights of transgender people by narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. The move is a cruel, extremist, and transparent political attack on millions of Americans, including transgender older adults.

Transgender older adults face a number of challenges. Key among them are barriers to adequate healthcare, including healthcare providers who lack basic cultural and clinical knowledge, refuse to treat transgender patients, or establish policies that perpetrate harassment and abuse.

Nearly 1 in 5 transgender individuals reports being refused care because of their gender non-confirming status, and higher rates exist in transgender communities of color. This type of discrimination, which compounds over a lifetime, contributes to poorer health outcomes among transgender older adults, with 1 in 3 reporting poor physical health.

The Administration’s plans, coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, not only recklessly disregard modern science and medicine, but also the law. Dozens of courts in the past two decades have affirmed full rights and identities of transgender individuals. The plans would roll back established legal protections and only exacerbate health disparities and other challenges facing transgender older adults.

Justice in Aging stands with transgender older adults and others in the gender non-conforming community and joins a broad coalition of civil and human rights organizations to oppose and fight back against the Administration’s plans. Transgender Americans deserve dignity and respect under our law. 

Justice in Aging’s Statement on the Nomination of Judge Kavanaugh

By | IN THE NEWS, Newsroom, Statements

The stakes are high for older adults with the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice. We need a Supreme Court Justice who will protect older adults’ access to health care, their economic security, and their right to be treated equally and with dignity in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Congress needs to reject any nominee, including Judge Kavanaugh, who will put the interests of the wealthy and powerful above the interests of the rest of us—especially the older adults in our communities. The American people want a Supreme Court justice with moderate views and who has bipartisan support. Judge Kavanaugh is not such a justice.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record gives us little comfort that he would defend the civil rights of older adults or older adults’ access to health care. He has routinely ruled against older adults in age discrimination cases. The fate of the Affordable Care Act and the consumer protections that are critical to the ability of older adults to access and afford coverage are on the line. Based on Judge Kavanaugh’s record, his confirmation would put protections for 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions at grave risk.

His willingness to defer to the executive authority of the President is dangerous and would undermine the judiciary’s role as a check on unfettered Presidential power. The Administration is rolling back important consumer protections and rights, including for LGBTQ older adults, and cutting access to Medicaid. The next Supreme Court Justice should be someone who will preserve the court system as a meaningful route to challenge these actions, not someone who would turn back the clock on civil rights

For those reasons we oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and urge members of Congress to reject him as a nominee.