The Older Americans Act Expired On 9/30: What that Means

Dan Adcock, Director of Government Policy and Research at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and one of the authors of the Older Americans Act reauthorization in 1992, wanted to see for himself how the Older Americans Act (OAA) affects seniors. So, he rode along with his father, Cliff, on his route as a Meals on Wheels volunteer in Escondido, California. His recent ride-along taught him that delivering meals to seniors – many of whom were shut-ins – was not only a way to bring them lunch and/or dinner but also what may have been their only social interaction all day.

At the end of their two-and-a-half hour run, Dan thanked his dad for letting him accompany him on his route. The ride-along re-affirmed Dan’s belief in a program that he had experienced as an advocate and policymaker, but never up close and in person. Seeing the seniors’ joy and gratitude for the sustenance and social contact he and his father provided enhanced his appreciation of Meals on Wheels, one of the various important programs funded by the OAA.

Dan is just one of many who are reaching out to congress to reauthorize the OAA. The OAA helps millions of older adults each year by providing in-home support services that assist them to bathe, get dressed, or maintain a clean and safe home. It provides transportation programs to keep older adults engaged in the community, along with home-delivered meals (as described above) and much more for those 60 and older. It expired yesterday, and the U.S. House is currently on recess. Ironically, today (the day after the OAA expired) is International Day of Older Persons!

How the OAA Came to Be

The OAA was passed in 1965 alongside Medicare and Medicaid, as part of an historic effort by lawmakers to take care of seniors. Whether they know it or not, older adults across the U.S. rely on critical programs and services funded by the OAA to help them live safely in their homes and communities as they age. In fact, the OAA has been dubbed as one of the most effective programs ever enacted, as it saves Medicaid and Medicare considerable amounts of money by allowing older adults to remain in their community or at home.

The OAA and Its Status Today

On Sept. 18, the House Committee on Education and Labor approved a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Act. That bill proposes a smaller increase next year: 7% then 6% in subsequent years, for a total increase of more than 35% over 5 years. But it might not be enough. Here’s why:

  • Although 11 million people receive services such as meals, light home care, and transportation through OAA, funding has been relatively flat over the past decade, failing to keep up with inflation and demand from a rapidly expanding older population.
  • Millions of seniors continue to go without the nutrition they need. Waits for Meals on Wheels can stretch over a year. Seniors without steady, nutritious food can wind up in hospitals, which drives up Medicare and Medicaid costs. Still, the biggest chunk of the act’s budget — nutrition services — dropped by 8% over the past 18 years when adjusted for inflation, an AARP report found earlier this year.
  • A June proposal called for a $93 million increase to the Act’s nutrition programs, which would raise total funding by about 10% to $1 billion in the next fiscal year. However, in inflation-adjusted dollars, that’s still less than in 2009.
  • To get OAA funding back to 2010 levels would require a 30% increase. Meanwhile, 10,000 people a day turn 65. This means that the waiting lists are growing WAY faster than even the most optimistic funding.
  • Traditionally, this legislation has received wide bipartisan support, but legislators are still attempting to work out some differences between what the Trump administration wants and provisions Democrats and advocacy groups would like to add.

The last OAA reauthorization took Congress five years. Hopefully this one won’t take that long since the current authority already ran out yesterday, September 30.

According to Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, “Seniors deserve high quality care that keeps them healthy and safe. This important bill contains provisions to protect seniors and reduce the burdens on families who are caring for their loved ones.” Let’s hope the OAA gets reauthorized soon!

How to Get Assistance Through the OAA

For information and access to the National Aging Network organizations and services in our area (assuming the Act gets re-authorized by Congress), click the links below:

Administration on Aging
State Units on Aging
Area Agencies on Aging
Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Native American Programs
Services Available

Plan for Future Long-Term Care for When You Can No Longer Age-in-Place

Even with the assistance of programs associated with the OAA, sometimes more care is needed than can be provided in the home. Long-term care planning should be an important part of your future planning. If you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care or if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Law Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Law Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Law DC: 202-587-2797

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