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. 

Justice in Aging’s Statement on the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies

By | Newsroom, Statements

Justice in Aging opposes the Administration’s continued attacks on immigrant families, as demonstrated in the recent statements and policy actions of numerous Administration officials and agencies. These statements and actions – including the separation or indefinite detention of families – are inhumane, unethical and contrary to our country’s values.

As advocates for older adults, we support policies that welcome and help immigrants in our communities. Many immigrants are older adults. Data from the 2015 census show that 15% of the population 60 years old and older were born outside the United States. Furthermore, many older adults belong to multigenerational families with immigrant adults and immigrant children. Older adults in these families may both rely on other family members to care for them, and provide childcare so other family members can work. The Administration’s choice to misuse our nation’s immigration policies to attack immigrants and their families causes serious and irreparable harm and fails to serve anyone.

In addition, an increasing share of paid caregivers for older adults are immigrants, and many of the immigrant direct care work force are themselves over age 55. As the needs of our aging communities grow over the next ten years, we will increasingly rely on immigrants to provide even more care. Our communities also benefit from the contributions of younger immigrant workers, who pay into Social Security and Medicare for decades, thereby strengthening the financing of these programs for us all.

Instead of attacking immigrants who come here to escape dangerous conditions at home or simply to seek a better life, as millions have done since the founding of the United States, we need to recognize the important connections between immigration and the well-being of all older adults in our communities and advance policies that support immigrants and their families

Welcome to Summer 2018 Fellows and Interns!

By | Statements

This summer we’re excited to have two fellows joining us for the inaugural year of our new Justice in Aging summer fellowship program and to be joined by three legal interns. Read more about them below.

Prathyusha Chenji, Racial Justice Fellow (DC)
Prathyusha is a rising 3rd year law student at Emory University School of Law. Before joining Justice in Aging for the summer, she worked as a Law Student Intern at a medical-legal partnership in Atlanta, GA, providing on-site legal services relating to Supplemental Security Income benefits and disability determination in children. Prathyusha also worked as a Congressional Intern in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to law school, she graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Languages and Civilizations and concentration in Molecular Biosciences.

Alana Murphy, Colin Alexander Health Law Fellow (OAK)
Alana is a rising 3L at UC Davis School of Law. As an Oakland native, Alana is excited to spend the summer at home in Oakland. Alana went to law school to pursue a career in public interest law and is thrilled to learn more about impact litigation and policy advocacy this summer. Last summer, Alana worked in direct services at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel in San Francisco where she assisted in eviction defense and social security overpayment issues. Prior to law school Alana worked at Project Open Hand, a nonprofit that provides food for people living with critical illnesses. Alana also spent a year living in Santiago, Chile teaching English. Alana is thrilled to learn more about health law and policy this summer and to get to know the Justice in Aging community!

Will Harrison, Summer Intern (DC)
Will is a rising 2L at Tulane Law School. Prior to attending law school, Will spent two and a half years managing the Nashville area State Health Insurance Assistance Program (TN SHIP), a federally funded agency that provides free, unbiased Medicare education and counseling. While living in Philadelphia, Will spent two years coordinating the freshmen volunteering program at Drexel University and a year as an Americorps VISTA at YouthBuild Philly Charter School. Will has an interest in legislative and administrative advocacy, and how government agencies and programs can equitably serve citizens of all backgrounds. Will received his undergraduate degree from Haverford College.

Kay Kim, Summer Intern (LA)
Kay Kim is a rising 2L at UCLA School of Law. She was born and raised in southern California, where she spent her formative years in the Coachella Valley. Kay graduated from UC Berkeley in 2014 with a B.A. in Media Studies. Before attending law school, she worked full-time for three years in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Though she is unsure as to what area of law she wants to practice, Kay would like to work within Los Angeles’ public interest sector after graduating from law school.

Clark Manning, Summer Intern (LA)
Clark is a rising 2L at Southwestern Law School. Previously, Clark was a legal intern at a small probate firm where he began his exposure to elder injustice. Clark graduated from Azusa Pacific University in 2017 with a major in political science and a minor in prelaw.

Justice in Aging Statement on Proposed 2019 Budget

By | Statements

President Trump’s proposed FY 2019 Budget is yet another attack on the health and economic security of older adults and people with disabilities. After using the latest tax bill to give away trillions of dollars in tax cuts to America’s wealthiest, the Administration is attempting to pay for those tax cuts by slashing critical programs that keep older adults in their homes, allow them to visit their doctors, and ensure they can meet their basic needs.

This budget would take us backwards by increasing poverty and making it harder for people to get the health care they need. It goes against what Congress wants and what the public wants. In its 2018 budget, Congress recently increased spending for important and popular programs. Those gains would disappear in 2019 under this budget.

The American people do not want cuts to Medicaid or the repeal of the ACA, yet this budget renews calls for slashing Medicaid by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade through block grants and per capita caps, as well as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As we have explained, such cuts would be devastating to low-income older adults who rely on Medicaid to support their health care needs and ability to stay in their homes, leave millions without coverage, and weaken consumer protections.

The President promised the American people he wouldn’t touch Medicare, yet his proposed budget for the next ten years calls for over $490 billion in cuts to a program that every American will need.

The budget also would make it harder for older adults to pay rent, put food on the table, and meet their basic needs. The budget proposes significant cuts of over $83 billion to Social Security, primarily through cuts to Social Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. These programs are there for people who have no or little income and are the difference between home and a life on the streets for many.

Additionally, the budget proposes dramatic cuts to nutrition assistance, eliminates funding for home heating and cooling assistance for about 6 million low-income households, and calls for the complete elimination of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides vital legal help for low-income older adults and their families.

This budget is a true window into the misplaced priorities of this President and his Administration. On the heels of a massive tax cut that will increase income inequality, this budget proposes to make life even more difficult for America’s poor older adults and people with disabilities.

By joining together we have fought back successfully against previous attempts to cut the programs older adults and their families rely on, and we will continue to fight for justice for us all as we age.

Read our joint statement with Medicare Rights Center, and the Center for Medicare Advocacy