Split Congress
(Credit: Douglas Rissing / Getting Images)

The midterms ended in razor-thin results and an upcoming “tumultuous period” with a divided Congress, but Argentum’s advocacy push remains on workforce improvements and financial relief for the senior living industry.

During an Argentum Advocates membership call on Thursday, Jim Ellis, creator of the Ellis Insight report and a senior political analyst for the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, shared insights into the potential makeup of congressional leadership.

With power shifting in the House and scores of newly elected lawmakers taking office in January, Argentum Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Maggie Elehwany said it will be more important than ever for senior living executives to make direct connections with local and state lawmakers to share their “critically important story.”

“The most powerful story going forward is the problem of the sheer demographics of the country with a rapidly aging population,” Elehwany said. “They (lawmakers) need to better understand the needs of long-term care — and its cost-effectiveness.”

The “perfect storm is forming,” she said, adding that showing the value of senior living will be key in moving policy in the industry’s favor.

That value, she said, comes in the form of assisted living providing $43.5 billion in annual savings to Medicaid by keeping older adults out of higher-cost skilled nursing facilities. Senior living providers, she added, also provide annual savings of $31.2 billion to Medicare through care coordination, resulting in a 52% reduction in resident hospitalization rates and an 83% reduction in rehospitalization rates.

Sharing well-known projections that the number of older adults will outnumber children for the first time in US history by 2034, Elehwany said that 70% of those older adults will need long-term care.

“We simply need to better educate Congress on who we are and the great things we do,” she said. “Talk about the seniors you care for, the vulnerabilities of those seniors, how you improve health outcomes and quality of life overall with clinical and sensitive direct care.”

The association also is targeting the federal government as the “largest financier of workforce development programs” in the country for training programs that focus on the needs of senior living communities.

“The federal government finances the largest amount of training programs in the country. We want to get those training programs to focus on the needs of senior living communities,” Elehwany said, adding that federal workforce development programs never have focused on the needs of the aging population or on geriatrics.

States targeted for unspent federal COVID relief dollars

Another financial avenue Argentum continues to pursue is convincing states to use unspent American Rescue Plan Act dollars on senior living.

States received $196 billion in ARPA funding, but a significant amount remains unspent. Just this week, Argentum sent a letter to the National Governors Association urging the nation’s governors to “more aggressively” encourage states to use federal ARPA funds to help senior living providers partially recoup more than $30 billion in pandemic-related losses.

Argentum Vice President of Government Relations Paul Williams pointed to 13 states that provided $400 million in ARPA funding to senior living communities in the form of provider relief, COVID-19 expenses, home- and community-based Medicaid funding enhancements, workforce development and training, child care, wage increases and air quality relief grants. 

He said that Argentum and its state affiliates are holding those programs up as models for other states to target funding to older adults and their caregivers.