New Housing Task Force to Tackle Home Care Barriers

A newly formed bipartisan task force plans to address critical policy issues for America’s senior population, setting its sights specifically on helping more older adults access cost-efficient home- and community-based services.

Monday, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launched its new Health and Housing Task Force, a commission comprised of former U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Vin Weber (R-Minn.), alongside former Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Henry Cisneros and fellow former U.S. Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

The establishment of this one-year effort is predicated on calling attention to the need for creating cost-effective ways to meet health and housing needs of the burgeoning senior population, which by 2030 will comprise 73 million Americans age 65 and older, according to the BPC.

“This country faces some serious questions with respect to the aging of the population,” said task force member Cisneros during a press call Monday morning. “Our aim is to call attention to this emerging challenge facing our nation.”

This challenge, while it offers “incredible opportunity in the near-term,” Cisneros added, is on track to become a major crisis if left unaddressed.

Building on the work of BPC’s Housing Commission and its Long-Term Care Initiative, the Health and Housing Task Force is shooting for a number of goals, including highlighting best practices from states and localities for integrating housing, health care and long-term services and supports, as well as find cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors safe and viable.

Identifying potential funding sources to achieve this will be critical and may even require collaboration between various government agencies, such as HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate services.

“The fact is that we know there are seniors who want to stay in their homes, but they have issues with aging frailty and need support services and health care,” said Schwartz. “We work far too often in silos. We need to understand that the intersection of housing and health care has the potential to save real dollars.”

Another main priority for the Task Force will be identifying barriers—at the state and local level—to offering home- and community-based services and supports through Medicaid.

“What we’re really looking at is why some states have been aggressive in making home- and community-based care available, while others haven’t and talking with them about why they see barriers and identifying policy recommendations in helping them move forward,” said Katherine Hayes, director of health policy at the BPC, during the press call.

During the first quarter of 2016, the Task Force expects to produce specific policy recommendations for both Congress and the Administration. Additional recommendations intend to help state policymakers, as well as health and housing providers, link their shared goals to improve health outcomes, cost-efficiency and quality of life for America’s seniors.

“This is a massive issue for our society because the dimensions of aging are so great,” said Cisneros. “It’s real, and we’re not thinking about it as a country—we’re thinking about it as a budget issue. There are preventable aspects of the cost curve to keep people healthy for as long as possible.”

Written by Jason Oliva

Jason Oliva