Capitol Reflections - Week of February 13, 2017

Legislation | February 15, 2017 | by LeadingAge Advocacy Team

A weekly recap of LeadingAge advocacy activities and updates in the nation's capital.

LeadingAge Call-In Campaign

LeadingAge has extended its “Medicaid Call-in Days,” giving LeadingAge service providers and the seniors they serve the opportunity to engage with their lawmakers and urge them to oppose fundamental changes to Medicaid. Please take a moment to make your phone call today!
 

Member Advocacy Around the Country

Many members around the country are working with their staff, residents, and families to advocate for issues that are important to older adults. Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, OH is one such example. Earlier this week, Richard Schwalberg, the community's Administrator, organized a rally -- "Senior Revolt Against Health Care Cuts" --  that initially attracted about 350 people. The group wrote letters to their policymakers to demand that federal and state legislators reject Medicaid expansion and state Medicaid cuts. The local CBS station picked up the story and soon, Menorah Park had more thana 4,000 letters! Visit Menorah Park's Facebook page to see more and to download sample letters.

Another LeadingAge member, Hebrew Home at Riverdale in in New York City, has sent more than 3,500 letters to policymakers also with the same requests. 

We encourage all of our members to engage in advocacy activities on Medicaid issues as well as other issues that may impact older adults.

Health Care Debates Continue

The confirmation hearing for Seema Verma, President Trump's nominee for CMS Administrator, will be held before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday morning beginning at 10 a.m. Ms. Verma is well-known for her expertise in developing state Medicaid plans, but it is unclear how much she knows about the Medicare program, post-acute care, and the regulatory issues that concern us. You can watch the confirmation hearing on the Finance Committee webpage.  

Update on the ACA repeal debate: We continue to meet with representatives and senators to advocate for maintaining the integrity of the Medicaid program and to understand their positions on the Affordable Care Act. We can report that, at least publically, there is no simple way forward to replace the ACA, which makes repealing it very complicated. The future of the Medicaid program also is not clear, so please continue to advocate for preserving Medicaid, not cutting funding for the program, and not changing the financing structure to a block grant or per capita cap.  Read our issue brief on Medicaid for more information.

Appropriations Roulette

After a heavy round of visits with staff of House and Senate appropriators, it is clear to LeadingAge that much remains uncertain about the path ahead for both fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018. While reports pegged February 28 as the day President Trump would release an overview of his request for next year’s funding, the absence of a budget director at the Office of Management and Budget could mean we do not see a top-line request until perhaps mid-March or even later. Rumors abound, even among Hill staff, that President Trump's request will mirror recommendations from The Heritage Foundation to cut federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

For fiscal year 2017, a few of these appropriations bills had been fully negotiated, including the one that funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Appropriations staff are clearly frustrated that the hard work on these bills might not be justified by the bills’ enactment. Whether the completed bills are enacted, appropriators are forced to go back to the drawing board, or Congress passes another Continuing Resolution through September 30 are other open questions. The Trump administration is expected to provide Congress soon with its request for supplemental funding for fiscal year 2017 (for the border wall and for defense). If this spending must be offset, another open question, then appropriators may have to re-open their fiscal year 2017 bills.