April 2012 Washington Update: Page 2 of 2
AGS Prepares Comment on Obama Administration Draft Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease
In late March, the AGS was preparing a response to a draft of a plan, written by an advisory council convened by the Obama Administration, to increase investment in efforts to address Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. The draft emphasizes the importance of expanding and better coordinating research concerning Alzheimer’s disease, particularly through public–private partnerships; better preparing the healthcare workforce to provide appropriate care for those with the disease; enhancing public outreach; and providing families affected by the disease with financial and other support. The report includes specific recommendations for reaching these goals, such as by creating registries to better encourage patients with Alzheimer’s disease to participate in clinical trials, and establishing a national inventory of research in this area.
Earlier in the year, the Obama Administration announced that its efforts to address Alzheimer’s disease would include making an additional $50 million available for cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research this fiscal year; another $80 million for such research the coming fiscal year; and $26 million more for caregiver support, provider education, public awareness, and improvements in data infrastructure. The additional research funding will support both basic and clinical research, including efforts to identify genes that increase the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, and efforts to test therapies among those at highest risk of developing the disease. Funds will also be used to develop better databases to assess the burden of cognitive impairment and dementia.
AGS Comments on Proposed Home Care Workers Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections
In written comments to the Department of Labor, the AGS voiced its support for an Obama Administration proposal to extend Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections to home care workers during the department’s February comment period. The AGS has long supported such a move, as has the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), which is co-convened by AGS Chief Operating Officer Nancy Lundebjerg. The extension of these protections to home care workers was one of the first issues the EWA championed.
The nation’s nearly two million home care workers are currently excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections. The AGS recognizes that direct-care workers, who provide an estimated 70% to 80% of the paid day-to-day care older Americans receive, are essential members of the interdisciplinary care team.
AGS Continues to Call for Support of CLASS Act
Despite the Republican-led House of Representative’s early February vote to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act), the AGS and other organizations continue to advocate for this important legislation. The CLASS Act, designed to provide affordable long-term care insurance, was part of the 2010 healthcare reform law. Under the act, workers would pay a monthly premium while working, and, if disabled later in life, would receive a daily cash benefit of up to $50 that would help cover long-term care costs.
While the Department of Health and Human Services concluded in October 2011 that there was no way to make the program financially solvent, the White House has indicated that it does not support the repeal of the program. AGS and other advocates continue to urge the Senate to fix the legislation rather than scrap it.
CLASS Act was designed to address a growing problem in long-term care: roughly 10 million Americans need long-term care services, but only about 8% buy private long-term care insurance, which is costly. The number of older people in need of long-term care is expected to increase dramatically as the baby boomers age.
AGS Lends Its Support The AGS recently lent its support to:
Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The AGS supported IDSA’s efforts to address the serious and growing problem of antimicrobial resistance by cosigning an IDSA letter urging Congress to consider a new drug approval pathway designed to encourage the development of new and critically needed antibiotics. This issue is important to the AGS because seniors, especially those residing in nursing homes, are especially likely to contract drug-resistant organisms.
Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS). The AGS signed a letter from the STS to Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue regarding the agency’s recent decision to limit access to the Social Security death reports that it receives from the states. The letter raises concerns about the decision and requests Astrue’s assistance in finding a legislative solution that would enable physicians and researchers to access this data to evaluate medical interventions and track other medical and public health–related trends. AGS is concerned about the effect this change would have on patient registries and medical research since it may pose an obstacle to tracking patients/subjects who have died, thereby affecting the quality of reported data.