Critical legislation, known as the Older Americans Act, has for nearly 50 years improved the lives of seniors, family caregivers, and persons with disabilities through services such as home-delivered meal programs, transportation, adult day care, legal assistance, and health promotion programs.
Although this law has enabled tens of millions of seniors to receive services, such as Meals on Wheels, it is in urgent need of strengthening due to the changing needs of today's seniors, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases. A cornerstone of what must be addressed in updating the Older Americans Act is the nationwide lack of coordination between providers of health care services and organizations providing support to seniors. This lack of coordination leads to preventable medical problems, resulting in harm to senior's health and increased unnecessary expenses to the health care system.
To strengthen and expand coordination between organizations serving seniors and health care providers, Rep. Schwartz has introduced the Care Coordination for Older Americans Act of 2012, H.R. 6543. The Care Coordination for Older Americans Act establishes a link between medical care and the long-term services and support that seniors depend on every day. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator John Kerry (MA).
"Preventable and highly manageable chronic diseases consume 75 percent of health care costs making it vital that we find common-sense solutions to ensure that seniors can better manage their chronic diseases," said Rep. Schwartz (PA-13). "Seniors with diabetes, for example, have to follow a strict diet to manage their disease and stay healthy. But, without communication between the patient's primary care doctor and those who prepare their meals, the potential for complications is greatly increased. Improved coordination of care is essential to ensuring that seniors can live healthier lives and remain independent in their homes as long as possible."
"The inclusion of care coordination in the Older Americans Act would be a milestone, not only for older adults, but for their caregivers as well," said Holly Lange, senior vice president of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. "Care coordination of medical and social services would help to address the full spectrum of older adults' complex and changing needs and strengthen family supports."
"For the past 47 years, the Older Americans Act has provided indispensable services that have improved the lives of millions of older Americans, persons with disabilities, and their families by allowing them to live independently," said Sen. Kerry. "Those services will no longer be available unless Congress funds, renews and updates the program to reflect the challenges seniors face today. This legislation will ensure that older Americans with multiple chronic illnesses are getting the care and services they need from all providers."
The Care Coordination for Older Americans Act of 2012 would:
Instruct the State agency and Area Agencies on Aging (AAA's) to promote the development and implementation of care coordination plan to address the needs of older individuals with multiple chronic illnesses;
Include care coordination in the declaration of objectives of the Older Americans Act;
Provide a definition of care coordination that includes the coordination of medical and social services;
Add to the functions of the Assistant Secretary for Aging to encourage collaboration and sharing of information between the states, AAA's, Aging and Disability Resource Center, service providers, health care providers, and medical entities in order to improve care coordination.
The Care Coordination for Older Americans Act is endorsed by 18 major advocacy groups including the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Easter Seals, LeadingAge, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the American Society on Aging, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, and the American Geriatrics Society.