The President’s 2016 Budget will help ensure that older Americans enjoy not only longer but healthier lives. The Budget makes a number of commitments to enhance, advance, and create opportunity for older Americans, especially in the four focus areas of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging: retirement security, healthy aging, long-term care services and supports, and elder justice.
Let me say a little about a few of the Budget items in each area of focus:
To enhance retirement security, the President is committed to ensuring that Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. The Administration will oppose any measures that privatize or weaken the Social Security system and will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations or reduces basic benefits for current beneficiaries.
Additionally, as many as 78 million working Americans - about half the workforce - don't have a retirement savings plan at work. Fewer than 10 percent of those without plans at work contribute to a plan of their own. The President’s Budget expands retirement opportunities for all Americans to help families save and give them better choices to reach a secure retirement.
To support healthy aging, the Budget proposes a set of initiatives to strengthen Medicare by more closely aligning payments with the costs of providing care, encouraging health care providers to deliver better care and better outcomes for their patients, and improving access to care for beneficiaries. In addition, the Budget includes proposals that would build a stronger foundation for Medicare's future.
To provide relief from increased prescription drug costs, the Budget proposes to close the Medicare Part D donut hole for brand drugs by 2017, rather than 2020, by increasing discounts from the pharmaceutical industry. The Budget also proposes to provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with new authority to negotiate with manufacturers on prices for high cost drugs and biologics covered under the Part D program. These proposals represent a few amongst a range of potential options, and the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address growing drug costs.
Recognizing the importance of nutrition to healthy aging, the Budget provides over $874 million for Nutrition Services programs, a $60 million increase over the 2015 enacted level, allowing States to provide 208 million meals to over 2 million older Americans nation-wide, helping to halt the decline in service levels for the first time since 2010. In addition, the Budget helps provide supportive housing for very low-income elderly households, including frail elderly, to allow seniors to age in a stable environment and help them access human services.
To ensure older individuals and people with disabilities receive services in the most appropriate setting, the Budget proposes expanded access to Medicaid home and community-based long-term care services and supports. First, the Budget expands and simplifies eligibility to encourage more States to provide home and community-based care in their Medicaid programs. The Budget proposes expanding and improving the “Money Follows the Person” Rebalancing demonstration, which helps States provide opportunities for older Americans and people with disabilities to transition back to the community from institutions. The Budget also includes a comprehensive long-term care pilot for up to five States to test, at an enhanced Federal match rate, a more streamlined approach to delivering long-term care services and supports to support greater access and improve quality of care.
The Budget also includes increased discretionary resources for the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) program, which make it easier for Americans nation-wide to learn about and access their health and long-term care services and support options. ADRCs support State efforts to create consumer-friendly entry points into long-term care services at the community level.
The Family Support Initiative will assist family members supporting older adults or people with disabilities across the lifespan. It will complement nearly $50 million in new resources for existing aging programs that are already providing critical help and supports to seniors and their caregivers, such as respite and transportation assistance.
To support evidence-based interventions to reduce elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, the Budget includes $25 million in discretionary resources for Elder Justice Act programs authorized under the Affordable Care Act. These resources will support standards and infrastructure to improve detection and reporting of elder abuse; grants to States to pilot a new reporting system; and funding to support a coordinated Federal research portfolio to better understand and prevent the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable adults.
Taken together, these and other initiatives in the Budget will help to change the aging landscape in America to reflect new realities and new opportunities for older Americans, and they will support the dignity, independence, and quality of life of older Americans at a time when we’re seeing a huge surge in the number of older adults.
As many of you are aware, 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th Anniversary of Social Security. The commitments made to support older adults in the President’s Budget are a fitting way to mark these anniversaries, and to help fulfill the promise of a better future for older Americans—and for all of us—that is inherent in these landmark pieces of legislation.
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