Senior living associations say they appreciate that former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is prioritizing long-term care in his proposal to create a “21st-century caregiving and education workforce.”

Biden unveiled his plan Tuesday, saying that even before the pandemic, the country was experiencing a “caregiving crisis.” His $775 billion “caring economy” proposal allocates $450 billion to help states establish innovation funds to offer cost-effective options for primary and preventive care, meals, transportation, home safety and adult day programs.

The plan seeks to “ease the financial burden of care that families are carrying,” making it easier for aging relatives and individuals with disabilities to have “quality, affordable home- or community-based care.”

“We appreciate when federal officials recognize the importance of prioritizing long-term care and seek to expand access,” the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL) told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda said Biden’s proposal “affords the opportunity for more seniors to benefit from the services and supports offered by senior living.” 

The plan supports a number of Argentum’s priorities, including changes to the Medicaid state waiver program and caregiver training, he told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“There continues to be an institutional bias in this country that limits how and where seniors can receive long-term services and supports. We support Biden’s plan to provide funding to expand options for home- and community-based settings, such as senior living,” Balda said. 

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told McKnight’s Senior Living the nation has “undervalued and under-invested in older adults for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the devastating impact of that failure.”

Biden’s proposal to reform the Medicaid home- and community-based services waivers, Balda said, addresses a gap going back to the program’s founding in 1965 that does not afford low-income seniors the same choice of long-term care settings as private-pay individuals.

“Currently, Medicaid recipients who prefer a home- and community-based option to skilled nursing facilities have very little access depending on the extent of their state’s waiver program,” he said.

Part of Biden’s “caregiving economy” calls for eliminating the Medicaid waiting list for home- and community-based services. Balda said the proposal to “eliminate the waiver backlog and give states the option to convert HCBS waivers into a new state plan option with an enhanced federal match would go a long way” in providing choices to low-income seniors.

The plan also looks at elevating the compensation, benefits, training and education opportunities for certification, and the “dignity of caregiving workers.”

“Argentum has a nationally recognized registered apprenticeship for caregivers to ensure a robust career pathway in senior living,” Balda said. “Argentum continues to build apprenticeship and other training opportunities to ensure that senior living is a career and not just a job.”

“The vital role of family and paid caregivers has never been more clear, nor has the reality that our current system needs to be rebuilt to meet the needs of a rapidly growing older population,” Sloan told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Any candidate for president should be focused on this important issue – as we expect older adults and their loved ones will be this November.”

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