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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Advocacy never stops – with gratitude to Al Norman

Al Norman has moved on from his position as executive director of Mass Home Care.  For three decades, Al’s advocacy for elders was a force that kept the consumer front and center in any debate, legislative matter or policy consideration. His work has positively impacted the lives of so many elders, people with disabilities and caregivers, and for this we send our heartfelt appreciation. Al’s advocacy will go on and for that we are grateful. We wish him the best in all that lies ahead.

Meanwhile, advocacy continues….

On December 15, House and Senate leaders announced a compromise on the chambers’ competing tax cut measures. The conferenced package has moved quickly, and on December 19 the House and Senate voted affirmatively.   

The final bill, while retaining the medical expense deduction as it is in current law, would still drive up the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over ten years. Even with robust economic growth to offset some of that deficit spending, nonpartisan experts predict the bill will ultimately drive at least $1 trillion in deficits over ten years.

Elder advocates are deeply concerned about the tax reform measures given their effect on the federal deficit at a time when our nation is aging rapidly.

The FY 2018 budget resolution, which passed by both chambers this fall and is the mechanism by which tax cuts are moving so quickly, calls for more than $2.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other aging programs like the Older Americans Act – in the name of deficit reduction! Leaders in Congress and the White House have indicated that legislation to make those cuts is a primary goal for 2018.

In fact, unless Congress gets bipartisan support to waive “PAYGO” rules, passage of the tax cuts will force automatic cuts to Medicare and several other mandatory programs in January. While Congress has averted such cuts in the past, this situation is a reflection of the fact that the tax cut bill makes revenue and deficit choices that we believe put critical aging programs in jeopardy in the short and long term.

At the state level, the Senate passed a Health Care Reform bill in November.  It is expected that Health Care Reform will be taken up by the House over the winter and spring of 2018. The Senate bill includes a transfer of funds from Home Care when a Medicare/MassHealth member is enrolled in a SCO (managed care) plan. While consumer protections are included should a member wish to disenroll, we are concerned about reducing access to home care when the Commonwealth is aging rapidly. Stay tuned for the House version which will likely be influenced by what happens at the federal level as applies to Medicaid in the FFY18 budget when finalized.