Archive for July, 2009

Chuck_Gould_smBy Charles W. Gould, President and CEO, Volunteers of America

With Congress now focused on health care reform, we need to urge legislators to include long-term care as part of any reform proposal. For vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities and chronically ill seniors, these services are critical to promoting health and preventing illness.

Last month, Volunteers of America hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club on the future of senior care in America. Two of the nation’s leading health care reform advocates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, were joined by myself and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson. The panel was moderated by Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile.  The discussion explored the health care and other needs our nation faces as Baby Boomers grow older in record numbers. The panel also focused on many of the issues included as part of the current health care reform debate in Congress.

In preparation for the upcoming and unprecedented growth in the senior population, Volunteers of America has made a strategic decision to focus more directly on the needs of older people and those who support them. Called Aging with OptionsTM, this initiative aims to transform the current senior care system by providing people with guidance and control over their care, and allow older Americans the freedom to receive care while living longer in their own homes.

As Congress debates its proposals for health care reform, we need to make sure long-term care is on the table and any proposal includes the following six elements:

  1. Coverage that is available to everyone, including seniors, those with disabilities, and anyone who might be excluded from private coverage. These might include people with family histories of certain chronic medical conditions.
  2. Consumer choices that include home and community-based services.
  3. A sound fiscal model that relieves pressure on Medicaid and in turn helps prevent states from cutting these necessary services.
  4. Coordination of care, so that all doctors and caregivers working with a patient are talking to each other. This can be done through programs such as the highly successful PACE (Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) program.
  5. A person-centered approach, promoting increased access to information and benefits.
  6. Adequately paid and high-quality care workers, promoting not only better care but also job growth.

As hearings and meetings continue through the summer, I urge everyone to reach out to their legislators in Congress and let them know that health care, and particularly long-term care, should be a top priority and is of critical importance for Americans of all ages.

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