Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2016;24(6):7.
“The War in Europe is Ended!” “Dewey Defeats Truman.” “Men Walk on the Moon!”
Headlines play an important role in defining where we’ve been—and where we’re going. That’s as true for long-term care as it is for society. As the country fixes its gaze on Washington for the presidential election, now is an important time to reflect on the headlines that already have defined long-term care, as well as the headlines we hope to celebrate in the year ahead.
Whether we’re looking to the past or the future, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) has played an important role in conceptualizing these milestones and bringing them to fruition. Advocating for health care policies that will improve the health and well-being of older adults, the AGS has championed not only the long-term care workforce but also quality improvement, medical education, and funding for important aging research.
Headlines We Celebrated Last Year
Older Americans Act Reauthorized After Years of Delay: In April 2016, President Obama signed the Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization Act into law, ending a long gap in affirming important long-term care programs serving older adults. The AGS and partners like the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) have long advocated for reauthorization of the OAA. As AGS CEO Nancy E Lundebjerg notes, the OAA and legislation like it “reflect our national commitment to protect and provide for generations of older Americans who helped shape the society we now share. It’s important that all branches of government stand behind legislation like the OAA, which reflects the attention and respect that older adults deserve.”
Advance Care Planning Included in 2016 Physician Fee Schedule: Several months before the passage of the OAA, health care professionals reimbursed under Medicare also began providing advance care planning (ACP) as a newly covered benefit under the 2016 Physician Fee Schedule. A comprehensive, ongoing, person-centered approach to communication about future health care choices, ACP represents a new approach to long-term health and care focused on collaboration and respect when working through complex health concerns. Work on the part of AGS to secure this important recognition for ACP included leadership of the Relative Value Scale Update Committee survey process to value the codes, sustained engagement with government officials to garner support, and a deep commitment to helping members understand how to use these new codes now and moving forward.
Headlines We Hope to See in the Year Ahead
Payment for New and Innovative Codes: The AGS continues to lead a coalition of more than one dozen medical specialty societies meeting with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to discuss new codes for inclusion in the 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Specifically, geriatrics advocates like the AGS have been pushing for payment to cover additional chronic care management services, acute non–face-to-face care management, and assessment and care planning for patients with cognitive impairment—all important goals for the future of quality long-term care.
Increased Funding for Key Workforce Programs in 2017: The AGS coordinates closely with EWA in developing requests to Congress and the Executive Branch for increased funding to Title VII and Title VIII geriatrics education and training programs. Over the past several years, these programs have secured relatively level support, which speaks volumes for the advocacy impact of the AGS and its members in light of our already resource-constrained political environment. The AGS continues to urge Congress to support increased funding for key programs to expand and enhance the long-term care workforce and the future of geriatrics writ large.
These and so many other geriatrics needs are urgent, and the system can often be frustratingly slow in responding to demand. Still, it’s encouraging to see shifts in policy in the here-and-now that are bringing attention to the unique health needs of older individuals.
So what can you do to stay involved? Visit AmericanGeriatrics.org/Advocacy_Public_Policy to learn about the AGS’s advocacy efforts, its commentary on important topics and legislation, and ways you can make an impact by being your own champion in conversations with your Congressional representatives.