Katie Smith Sloan

Fighting COVID-19, ensuring access to long-term services and supports, and improving access to affordable housing are among the suggested actions LeadingAge laid out Tuesday to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration and members of the transition team.

“2021 should be a new beginning for older Americans,” said LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan, who laid out an action plan for the incoming administration in a letter meant to help “make our country a better place for millions of Americans to grow old.”

Sloan, also writing in her capacity of acting president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of America/Elevating Home, outlined almost four dozen recommendations that the new administration could take in its first 30 days, 100 days and first year.

“The pandemic has exposed longstanding gaps in infrastructure, financing and quality of services for the increasing number of people who live into their eighth and ninth decades and beyond,” she wrote. 

The top goal, Sloan said, should be fighting COVID-19 by fortifying aging services providers to keep older adults and their surrounding communities healthy and safe: 

  • In the first 30 days, LeadingAge recommends invoking the Defense Production Act to fill gaps in personal protective equipment; working with Congress to fill immediate PPE, testing and staffing needs; working with state governors to minimize community spread; and simplifying the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness process for the not-for-profit aging services providers that LeadingAge represents.
  • In the first 100 days, Sloan said, the administration should create a national testing program for all essential aging services workers with rapid results turnaround, and also should create an interagency Health and Human Services effort to support mental health in a COVID-19 and post-COVID era.
  • In the first year, according to LeadingAge, the Biden administration should work with Congress to ensure that providers have access to future PPP loans and should create an HHS interagency task force to develop options for reform of the long-term care system and financing.

The second goal Sloan discussed involves ensuring that older adults receive the health and long-term care they need through preservation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. According to LeadingAge:

  • In the first 30 days of the Biden administration, access to telehealth services should be broadened.
  • In the first 100 days, the administration should include stronger investment in long-term services and end-of-life supports; work with Congress to include additional Medicaid funding within COVID-19 relief packages; and make permanent certain emergency waivers of Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid funding requirements.
  • In the first year, regulations should be streamlined across multiple programs, and new LTSS delivery and payment models should be tested.

The third goal of the incoming administration, according to LeadingAge, should be to ensure that older adults have access to affordable housing connected to aging care services by:

  • In the first 30 days, providing new COVID-19 relief (and expedited processing) for affordable senior housing providers; releasing the remaining Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for those providers; extending eviction moratoriums; and restorinf federal rules providing equal access for people who might face gender identity discrimination.
  • In the first 100 days, including very low-income older adults in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, and ensuring that older renters are served by HUD’s home modification program set-aside program.
  • In the first year, providing more funding support for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program in the HUD budget, and including a greater use of Medicare and Medicaid funds to promote the health of older adults in senior housing.

Taking these immediate and longer-term actions, Sloan told Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the transition team, would “represent a commitment to build a sustainable country to grow old in.”