n4a Legislative Update: Senate makes progress on OAA, down to wire on FY 2014 funding

9/27/13

Older Americans Act Reauthorization

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently announced progress on the Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization. A new OAA bill will shortly be introduced that reflects a bipartisan compromise negotiated by the four leaders: Full Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Full Committee Ranking Minority Member (RMM) Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Primary Health and Aging Subcommittee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Subcommittee RMM Richard Burr (R-NC). On Wednesday, October 2, the Senate HELP Committee will take the bill up for consideration—a process called "mark-up."

n4a staff have reviewed the new bill and have subsequently suggested very modest final changes for the four bipartisan leads to consider making before the mark-up session on Wednesday. For now, however, there are no longer any provisions causing us concern, as all of those have been removed or modified. This progress is thanks to your advocacy over the past few years.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill is a truly bipartisan effort and has the potential to actually move in the Senate in the coming months. This is no small feat in this fractured Congress! In order to accomplish this, however, the bill is very modest in its approach. You may hear of other disappointed advocates that did not get their particular recommendation in the final bill, but n4a long ago realized that an ambitious bill was simply not going to advance in this Congress and we adjusted our advocacy accordingly.

Provisions in the bill address definition updates (elder justice, Aging and Disability Resource Centers); technical corrections (eligibility under National Family Caregiver Support Program); new emphases on evidence-based health and wellness programs and coordination of human services transportation; and detailed instructions on prevention and remediation of conflicts of interest in the long-term care ombudsman program.

We are in close communication with key Hill staff and will continue to work with them right up until the mark-up session. Assuming no harmful provisions are added at the last minute, n4a expects to strongly support the measure’s passage. A full n4a analysis of the bill will then follow. The House 2

has not yet taken up this issue, but if the Senate does pass a bipartisan OAA bill, it may encourage the House to do the same. Stay tuned for additional information next week!

FY 2014 Continuing Resolution

As was detailed in our September 16 Legislative Update, several fiscal deadlines that Congress must address are rapidly approaching.

The first deadline Congress faces this fall is October 1, which marks the start of the new (FY 2014) federal fiscal year. Since Congress has not passed the appropriations bills that detail the new year’s funding levels for specific programs, they must pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep funding flowing past the deadline. If they do not, federal funding for all non-essential functions stops, causing a partial "government shutdown."

In the past week, both House and Senate have passed CRs, but a battle over a House provision defunding all Affordable Care Act (ACA) activities has slowed final passage. Today, the Senate approved a CR with funding through November 15 (one month earlier than the House recommended), but the new measure does not include the anti-ACA provision strongly supported by House conservatives. This impasse is driving the government shutdown talk.

Next Steps:

The House will likely take up the Senate-passed CR this weekend. If they pass the Senate CR without major changes, a shutdown is averted, at least in the short term. If they do not, the risk of shutdown increases dramatically, as there would be little time left on Monday for the Senate to respond to a changed measure.

Debt Ceiling

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew recently warned Congress that the federal debt limit will be reached by October 17 if current economic projections continue. While tackling the debt limit could be swiftly and simply handled by Congress, in concert with the Administration, the situation offers too much of a political opportunity for lawmakers to pass up.

The House has moved first to produce a bill that lifts the debt ceiling, but it is shaping up to be far from a simple bill to prevent the federal government from defaulting on its’ debt obligations. Rather, is likely to include a host of policy provisions intended to reduce deficit spending by cutting programs (e.g., increasing means testing in Medicare, eliminating the Social Services Block Grant) and provisions that have long been on conservatives’ wish lists, such as reducing government regulation, defunding the ACA for one year, approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline and others. It would also postpone the need to raise the debt ceiling again until after the November 2014 elections. Although final bill language has not yet been made public, the House may take up this measure over the weekend.

n4a is monitoring all of these fiscal and policy developments and will alert advocates to what you can do to help move the discussion.

Long-Term Care Commission

On September 18, the national Commission on Long-Term Care (Commission) released its final report. A summary of the final report can be accessed here. The Commission was established under Section 643 of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which was signed into law on January 2, 2013. In addition to establishing the Commission, this law included limited tax reform, 3 repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act and delayed federal sequestration until March 1, 2013.

On September 19, n4a CEO Sandy Markwood released a statement on the Commission’s report, saying "we certainly appreciate the Commission’s hard work and thoughtful recommendations; however, we urge Congress to think bigger and harder about solving the financing issues that surround long-term services and supports, and we look forward to working with our Congressional leaders to identify and implement positive public policy remedies."

Other members of the Commission shared n4a’s concerns. Five members of the Commission dissented from the final report. In the dissent, the authors state that they "are convinced no real improvements to the current insufficient, disjointed array of LTSS and financing can be expected without committing significant resources, instituting federal requirements, and developing social insurance financing."

Congress will review the report and further hearings will be held on Capitol Hill to discuss its findings. n4a will remain involved with further developments from the Commission’s work, as well as other opportunities to advance LTSS policy.

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n4a distributes regular Legislative Updates like this one to all n4a members. Please join us in advancing aging policy in America! www.n4a.org

For more information about these and other federal aging policy issues, please contact n4a Public Policy and Advocacy staff: Amy E. Gotwals (agotwals@n4a.org) and Neal Karkhanis (nkarkhanis@n4a.org), 202.872.0888.

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