What is the Michigan CARE Act
The Senate Health Policy Committee passed the Michigan CARE Act, which will help Michigan's 2 million caregivers. The bill now will go to the Senate floor.
Click here to read an article in the Lansing State Journal by Kari Sederburg, Executive Director of the Aging & Adult Services Agency at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for more information on the CARE Act and how it will benefit caregivers and those receiving care.
How many people do you know that are struggling to stay in their own homes because they need some help with things like preparing meals, getting bathed and dressed, keeping the house clean, or managing medications? There are two programs, one called the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver and the other called Office of Services to the Aging, that are funded by the state of Michigan and provide assistance with these and other activities.
These programs are scheduled to receive the same amount of money this year as they did last year, which means they will only be able to help the same number of people. We know that there are MORE people who need services like this, so we are asking the Michigan legislature to provide more money for them. If you agree that there are many seniors that don’t get any help right now but really need meals and services in their homes, please contact your state Representative and Senator and ask them to increase funding for the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver and for the Office of Services to the Aging. The more people the legislators hear from, the greater the likelihood that they will grant our request. Every phone call, letter, email, or visit from someone supporting these programs will help.
To find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, click here: who_to_contact
A number of issues related to seniors will require advocacy in 2015. On the state level both road funding and funding for in-home services and the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver will be a top priority for advocates. On the national level the Older Americans Act, Medicare Part B Physicians Reimbursement, and sequestration will be key issues to discuss with legislators. All five topics are outlined below or you can also download a printable copy of the February 2015 Advocacy Alert, please click here
Senior Issues in Michigan
Road Funding: Transportation, including the state of the roads, is a huge issue for seniors. Sustainable funding is necessary to fix this problem for seniors and everyone in the community. The legislature passed a package of bills and will require a public vote in May to secure the road fix.
Funding for In-Home Services and MI Choice Medicaid Waiver: The legislature will be asked to allocate an increase in the MI Choice Medicaid \Waiver budget and that of the Office of Services to the Aging for FY 2016, due to the rapidly increasing number of seniors in Michigan and the importance of helping them stay in their homes.
Senior Issues in the U.S.
Older Americans Act: The Older Americans Act funds critical services that keep older adults healthy and independent. The Act is overdue for reauthorization. S. 192, currently on the Senate floor, would reauthorize the Act for three years. It has bipartisan support and will hopefully be passed quickly in the Senate and then in the house.
Medicare Part B Physician Reimbursement: Medicare will undergo a cut in physician reimbursement due to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) policy, unless congress repeals the SGR permanently. In 2014 a one year fix was passed, stalling a permanent solution. The SGR will take effect in April 2015 unless Congress passes a legislative solution before then.
Sequestration: The threat of sequestration, or across-the-board budget cuts, is back for FY 2016 and would cause a 7% reduction in all non-defense spending including services for older adults, unless Congress passes a budget that meets the relevant spending caps. Such an indiscriminate funding cut would affect programs for seniors by slashing budgets in every category, even those services that seniors rely on for their health and well-being.
Last week the new legislature in Lansing was sworn-in, and shortly after that the leadership was announced for both houses. West Michigan is fortunate to be represented by women and men who are not only excellent legislators, but who are also in key leadership positions, either with the position they hold or the committee that they chair. Many of these legislators have pledged their support for the aging network, and we are counting on them to make sure that both policy and budgets support the needs of older adults in the community.
While most of our West Michigan legislators were previously serving and were re-elected, we do have a few new representatives and senators for the region. To see the updated list of current legislators and find out their committee assignments and contact information, please click here . We encourage you to contact your legislator to introduce yourself, tell her/him about what’s important to you, and ask her/him to support aging issues this year.
Michigan's Lame Duck Session
The Michigan Senate and House of Representatives are planning to finish up their respective legislative sessions before December 18. This will conclude the 2014 legislative year, and will be the last session before the newly elected legislators take office. In past years this “lame duck” period has been a time in which legislation can come up unexpectedly and be voted on very quickly, so it’s important for advocates to be paying close attention.
The Advisory Council of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan is watching three issues which would impact seniors – transportation, catastrophic auto insurance, and independent advanced practice nurses. A transportation solution is currently being negotiated by leaders of both chambers and the Governor, and will hopefully provide adequate and sustainable funding for roads across the state. Catastrophic care auto insurance is less likely to arise yet this year, but would negatively impact seniors and others if the unlimited lifetime benefit for medical and personal care following an auto accident were taken away. A senate bill that would create a designation for independent advanced practice nurses is in the House of Representatives, and would potentially impact the way medical care is delivered in Michigan. This bill could very well come up in the House and be passed very quickly.
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan will publicize an Advocacy Alert in the case that one of these issues requires immediate attention and advocacy. In the meantime, please click here for this month’s Advocacy Update for more details on these legislative issues, watch for news from the lame duck sessions
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
SB 636 would allow for the discontinuation of traditional landline phone service after December 31, 2016. AAAWM is concerned that seniors who rely on their landline telephone to make phone calls in emergencies or when the power is out, to monitor their medical devices, or to provide services for individuals with low hearing will be hurt by this bill. The bill is expected to be voted on in the near future. Advocates are urged to contact their legislators in the House of Representatives and ask them to protect Michigan's vulnerable seniors by opposing SB 636.
Click here to read more information on SB 636.
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
A bill currently being considered in the Michigan House of Representatives, Senate Bill 636, would allow telephone service providers to discontinue traditional “land line” service in favor of investing in more modern technology, such as voice over internet protocol (VoIP) or wireless service. This bill would take effect in January 2017.
Many groups representing older adults are opposed to this bill because of the negative effect it would have on seniors who rely on their traditional landline service in cases of an emergency or when the power is out, when there is no cellular or wireless coverage, or to monitor their medical devices. Passing this bill could put the most vulnerable older adults at risk.
All seniors and advocates are asked to contact their state representative and ask them to vote “no” on SB 636.
FY 2014 State Budget
Funding increases are needed for programs to help older adults stay independent in their own home. The MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program and the Office of Services to the Aging save the state money and meet the needs of a growing senior population. Action needs to be taken today to protect Michigan seniors!
What you can do:
PLEASE contact your legislators and ask them to support the Governor’s $18 million proposed funding increase in the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program, and a 5% increase in OSA funding. If your legislators already support this funding, be sure to say THANK YOU! A list of state Senators and Representatives for our 9 counties follows:
- The Office of Services to the Aging (OSA) has taken $10 million in funding cuts between 2009 and 2011 (27%). This at a time when more and more seniors are requiring services. The OSA provides programs such as Meals-on-Wheels, home-based and community services, and volunteer programs. These programs, funded by non-Medicaid funds, are also major contributors to keeping older adults in their own homes and out of expensive Medicaid funded nursing homes beds. The dollar savings to the state are very clear.
- Meals-on-Wheels, an OSA funded program, was cut by $3.3 million from 2009-2011. An additional $500,000 was cut from this vital program this year by the federal sequester! The value of a home delivered meal is obvious. Less apparent is the intangible benefit: a Meals-on-Wheels delivery person may be the only person an older adult sees all week. The value of that human interaction to the senior is immeasurable.
- The program saves the state money. MI Choice Medicaid Wavier program, which includes the Nursing Facility Transition program costs an average of $52/day compared to average nursing home costs of $172/day.
- The Nursing Facility Transition Program (NFT) has immediate savings. Because the program transitions individuals out of a more costly nursing facility, there is immediate savings to the state and taxpayers. Last year over 1,600 people transitioned state-wide saving Medicaid roughly $38 million.
Who to Contact:
Rick Snyder--Governor (517) 373-3400 Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov
- Winnie Brinks (517) 373-0822 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jon Bumstead (517) 373-7317 JonBumstead@house.mi.gov
- Mike Callton (517) 373-0842 MikeCallton@house.mi.gov
- Brandon Dillon (517) 373-2668 email@example.com
- Ray Franz (517) 373-0825 RayFranz@house.mi.gov
- Bob Genetski (517) 373-0836 BobGenetski@house.mi.gov
- Thomas Hooker (517) 373-2277 ThomasHooker@house.mi.gov
- Joel Johnson(517) 373-8962 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peter MacGregor (517) 373-0218 PeterMacGregor@house.mi.gov
- Rick Outman(517) 373-0834 RickOutman@house.mi.gov
- Lisa Posthumus Lyons (517) 373-0846 LisaLyons@house.mi.gov
- Phil Potvin (517) 373-1747 email@example.com
- Rob VerHeulen (517) 373-8900 RobVerHeulen@house.mi.gov
- Ken Yonker (517) 373-0840 KenYonker@house.mi.gov
- Darwin Booher--Senator (517) 373-1725 SenDBooher@senate.michigan.gov
- Judy Emmons--Senator (517) 373-3760 SenJEmmons@senate.michigan.gov
- Goeff Hansen--Senator (517) 373-1635 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dave Hildenbrand--Senator (517) 373-1801 email@example.com
- Mark Jansen--Senator (517) 373-0797 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rick Jones--Senator (517) 373-3447 SenRJones@senate.michigan.gov
- Arlan Meekhof--Senator (517) 373-6920 email@example.com
From the Executive Director
Frail low-income older adults will receive fewer home delivered meals and other vital home care services due to implementation of the federal sequester. As of March 1, funding for Older Americans Act programs across the country was reduced approximately 5%. That means fewer services for struggling older adults who need services the most.
In this region, about $140,000 in service funding will be lost. Unfortunately, the funding reduction is impacting programs that have already taken hits. State funding for meals and home care programs was cut 28% over a recent three year period. State funding for home delivered meals is at virtually the same level as 1997. Obviously, costs have risen significantly during that time frame. And the older adult population has increased by more than 25%. Adding to the challenge of serving older adults is the reduction in senior millage funding due to declining property values.
Consequently, meals and other services have been cut. Waiting lists grow across the state and country. Older adults who have given so much to our communities go without help.
AAAWM staff hopes to offset the cuts for this year by using unallocated funding and reserves. However it will be impossible to continue that in future years if there are additional cuts. According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Republicans and Democrats are so far apart on budget issues that the threat of more reductions is very real.
So if people tell you that not much has changed due to sequestration, share with them how older adults across the country are trying to get by with less. Also, contact your U.S. Senators and Congressman about the impact of sequestration. Older adults need your advocacy support.
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
There are a number of issues that are being considered by Congress and the state legislature before the end of the year that will have a huge impact on seniors. Below is urgent information on three of them, and what you can do right now.
Sequestration ( the fiscal cliff)
- Threatens federal funding for older adult programs which help seniors stay in their own homes.
- The Super Committee, comprised of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats from both the House and Senate, failed to come to a budget agreement, resulting in the automatic budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This is a package of spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect on Jan. 2, the first business day of 2013, if President Barack Obama and Congress cannot agree to an alternative measure to cut the deficit. $109 billion will come out of the federal budget every year for the next 10 years. Half, or about $54.7 billion, comes from defense spending, half will come from domestic programs, including Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly, which will see an $11 billion cut. The sequester cuts roughly 8 percent from all federal discretionary programs, from military spending to food safety to education.
- Click here for sequestration advocacy
Personal Property Tax Exemption
- State level bills that will reduce funding to local senior millages and state municipalities.
- Lt. Governor Calley has been working with the House of Representatives on an alternative plan to replace revenue lost to local entities from the exemption of industrial and commercial personal property tax. This differs from the earlier Senate passed version in that instead of relying on the annual appropriation process to replace the funds with expiring tax credits it proposes to shift funds from the state USE tax out of the general fund to the “Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Fund”. It would require a statewide vote to do so. Funds lost to the general fund would be made up in time from the expiring tax credits, with no indication of where general fund reductions would come from in the meantime.
- Of greater immediate concern to senior programs with millage funding is that the provisions for protecting “Voter-Approved” millages that were in the Senate bills are absent from the new proposal. The exemptions would begin in tax year 2014, and projected replacement revenue would not be available until 2016, and projected at only at 80% replacement, if voters approve the shift of funds from the USE tax.
- The new proposal allows local units of government to have a special assessment on industrial real property for police, fire, and ambulance services, that could help replace lost revenue up to 100%, but have no mechanism for other entities to make up lost funds.
- Click here for Personal Property Tax advocacy
Blue Cross Bills
- These bills will change how Blue Cross Blue Shield is structured and will put seniors and those with disabilities in jeopardy of losing affordable insurance coverage.
- Blue Cross Legacy Medigap policies are the most accessible and affordable policies in the state and must be maintained by keeping current statutory protections in place. If Legacy policies are discontinued, some beneficiaries will be forced to drop coverage altogether, or go on Medicare Advantage. Both have high out-of-pocket costs when you need health care. Some will spend their income and assets on health care bills and be forced to enroll in Medicaid.
- Younger people with disabilities going on Medicare have no legal protections in purchasing Medigap and rely on Blue Cross Legacy policies to supplement Medicare. People with End Stage Renal Disease, ALS, MS, and many other conditions depend on Blue Cross to sell them insurance.
- Click here for Blue Cross Bills Advocacy