Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act Threatens Job Prospects for Older Adults

Last month, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act (H.R. 3610). If passed, the Act will repeal many job training programs targeted to meet the needs of specific, at risk populations. Cuts include programs such as Jobs Corp, Wagner-Peyser and Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the principle job creation program for low-income older adults.

SCSEP is the largest federally funded program designed to target unemployed, low-income elders. It provides job training, placement services, counseling and community service assignments that help low-income seniors build economic security. Because older workers are four-times more likely to face unemployment than their younger counterparts, SCSEP addresses the unique needs of the elder community. Although Rep. Foxx declared the workforce education programs currently in place “hopelessly redundant and expensive,” in 2010 SCSEP employed over 100,000 participants nationwide.

If passed, the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act will eliminate a program that is currently aiding thousands of unemployed seniors, 89% of whom live at or below the poverty level. Because SCSEP distinctively caters to the needs of seniors, its removal will almost certainly damage the prospect of employment for many older adults.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seniors Benefit from the Affordable Care Act

As the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) approaches on March 23rd, it brings with it many new advantages for older Americans. The ACA directly impacts seniors by closing Medicare’s prescription drug benefits gap, promising comprehensive preventive care coverage and removing loopholes used by insurance companies to deny coverage. In these aspects, the ACA expands coverage for seniors while reducing the opportunity for exploitation.

Elimination of the “donut hole” is a key example of one of the improvements brought by the ACA. The “donut hole” is a drug coverage gap that forces participants to pay costs in full after their annual expenses reach $2,830. Until intervention from the ACA, Medicare beneficiaries paid the total cost of drugs until their annual expenses surpassed $6,440. The new law diminishes this gap in coverage by offering Medicare participants a 50% discount on brand name drugs. WOW’s Elder Index has found that out-of-pocket health care costs account for the second highest expense for elders, after housing.

Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act expands preventive care coverage to seniors by offering free annual wellness visits and personalized prevention for individuals enrolled in Medicare. By 2018, all private health insurance plans must cover preventive services without co-payments.

Finally, the Act will prevent insurance companies from rescinding coverage based on unintentional mistakes on applications. Currently, insurance companies have the right to revoke policies when a beneficiary becomes sick if there are unintentional mistakes on paper work. The new regulations eliminate this policy by prohibiting insurers from withdrawing coverage unless fraud or intentional misrepresentation of facts has occurred.

The anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and the introduction of its new reforms will help secure more fair healthcare policies to seniors. In the long run the ACA saves taxpayer dollars by eradicating fraud and abuse within the Medicare system and simultaneously guaranteeing elders more reliable coverage.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Economic Security is Highlighted in Older Americans Act Reauthorization

This month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce legislation to reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA), one of the most crucial sources of federal support for older adults. The OAA provides essential programs ranging from the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), to services to prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults, to meal and nutrition services for older persons.  

The reauthorization also includes several key amendments. For example, the bill establishes economic security as a goal of the OAA and includes a clarification of the formal definition of “economic security” to encompass the income necessary to pay for housing, health care, transportation, food, long-term care and goods and services to meet other basic needs. According to WOW’s Elder Economic Security Standard Index, average annual Social Security income only provides an older woman renter with 61% of the income necessary to establish economic security. The OAA’s emphasis on expanding and ensuring economic security is a key component in helping to compensate for this deficiency.

Furthermore, the OAA will redefine the term “economic need” to 200% of the federal poverty level, an especially important distinction in light of the fact that one in five older Americans today survives on an average income of only $7,500 per year.

Overall, the amendments and reauthorization of the OAA is a major stride for older Americans and provides an opportunity to improve existing programs in the framework of economic security. By addressing the growing need of support programs for older Americans through job training, legal assistance, nutritional advising and long-term care coordination services, the bill functions as one of the most comprehensive government-sponsored forms of assistance to seniors.

Sahdia Khan
Elder Economic Security Initiative Intern