AARP Statement on the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 18, 2010.  AARP Executive Vice President, Nancy LeaMond released the following statement to leaders of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations, as they prepare for consideration of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY2011:

“This bill includes some of the most important investments that our government makes in the health and well-being of our families and communities. AARP greatly appreciates the Committee’s extraordinary efforts to protect, restore and augment funding levels for many of these same programs since last year and continue to support programs that make such a difference in the lives of Americans each day.

“AARP’s top priorities in this legislation include adequate funding to address the Social Security Administration’s growing disability claims backlog, increased support for home-based care and nutrition services, sustained funding for essential services that family caregivers provide, providing resources to nursing programs to decrease a growing shortage and finally, recognizing the importance of national service programs and their volunteers to our nation’s communities.”

Excerpts from a March 18, 2010 letter from AARP Senior Vice President David Sloane to Subcommittee Chairman Obey and Ranking Member Tiahrt regarding AARP priorities follows:

Social Security Administration

“AARP greatly appreciates your continuing efforts to improve customer service by restoring sufficient funding for the Social Security Administration. While we are encouraged by news reports that the backlog has fallen to about 700,000 cases and wait times for hearings have fallen by nearly two and a half months, such news is of little value to the more than 225,000 claimants awaiting hearing in offices with waiting times that exceed about 500 days.

“For FY 2011, we urge that the Committee provide at least $12.5 billion to operate the programs under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, including Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI). Without this significant increase, the SSA will be unable to maintain quality service to the public, the disability backlog will worsen and program integrity will be undermined.”

FMAP Funding
“[AARP] also urge(s) your continued support for an extension, if needed, of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act’s 6.2% enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for another six months. Funding an enhanced FMAP is essential for states to care for the large numbers of people who lost private insurance along with their jobs and helps protect against cuts in vital home and community-based services. Enhanced funding also brings dollars directly into communities, provides jobs to health care professionals and generates additional economic activity and tax revenues.”

Family Caregivers
“Family caregivers are the backbone of long-term care in this country. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving “Caregiving in the U.S.” study released last December, over 65.7 million people in the U.S. have served as a family caregiver to an adult or a child within the last 12 months.

“Funding for these programs also represents only a small amount in comparison to the $375 billion estimated economic value of family caregiving and provides an excellent return on the taxpayer’s investment. We strongly support the Administration’s Caregiver Initiative and urge the Committee to provide the Administration on Aging with an additional $102.5 million for this purpose.”

State High Risk Pools
“At present, high risk pools provide the only possibility for insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions who have been denied this option by private insurers. Temporary funds for high-risk pools are part of the House- and Senate-passed health reform bills; should permanent authorization not be provided, we urge the Committee to provide no less than $55 million, the same amount provided in FY 2010.”

Nursing Workforce Development
“Nurses are central to consumers’ good health, especially within a changing health care system. They are positioned across the health care system to provide high quality health care, increase access to health care services, and keep costs down. Yet, as our population ages and requires more complex health care, we’re facing a shortage of nurses – 260,000 over the next 15 years.

“The problem is not a lack of interest in nursing. Instead, a shortage of nursing faculty is forcing nursing schools across the country to turn away tens of thousands of qualified applicants each year – almost 43,000 in 2009 alone, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, due largely to a severe shortage of faculty to teach nursing students. We urge the Committee to provide no less than $244 million for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs with $25 million for faculty loan repayment.”

Comparative Effectiveness
“The comparative effectiveness studies undertaken by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provide objective information to patients and providers that help both in making the most appropriate health care choices and in getting the most value out of these choices. The information gained through comparative effectiveness research could help to improve health outcomes – especially if prescribing is better tailored to meet specific needs. Better prescribing and appropriate choices may also lead to lower overall costs. AARP requests that the Subcommittee appropriate no less than $50 million for FY 2011 specifically for this purpose.”

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
“We respectfully request that the Committee provide sufficient funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to continue assistance for all households expected to receive assistance in the current year. The number of households served is expected to reach record levels again this year. This represents a 25% increase over last year and an additional 1.9 million households. The rapid increase in the number of households served reflects the rise in unemployment, as well as continuing high home energy costs. Older and economically disadvantaged residents find themselves in a very difficult position – they are often forced to choose between food and medicine and keeping their homes heated or cooled. Energy assistance is critical to older people, as they are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia and heat stroke.”

National Service Programs
“These programs are a wise federal investment; CNCS estimates that in 2006 the market value of the services that national service participants provided to the nation was between $1.8 and $3.8 billion. We believe this investment will pay off many times over, strengthening communities, improving our national well-being, and making service at all levels, by all age groups, a key component of what it means to be an American. We urge your support of the Administration’s request to provide the $60 million for the Social Innovation Fund and $10 million for the Volunteer Generation Fund.”



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