The end of the first session of the 115th Congress presents a good opportunity to take stock of our progress on our advocacy goals for 2017 and to set our course for the rest of this Congress.

We began 2017 with a focus on three priority issues for our advocacy – preservation of Medicaid’s structure and financing, improved funding for senior housing and regulatory relief, especially for nursing homes.

Despite substantial challenges, we achieved notable successes over the past year:

  • We were able to stave off repeated efforts to convert Medicaid into a system of block grants or per capita capped allocations;
  • We countered a call for severe cuts in housing funding with legislation that increased money for Section 202 and gave us RAD for PRAC;
  • We got an 18-month delay in the imposition of civil monetary penalties for any deficiencies cited under Phase II of the requirements of participation in Medicare and Medicaid for nursing homes.

While we were not able to defeat the new tax law, we were able to preserve the medical expense deduction and tax-exempt private activity bonds, two provisions that matter to all LeadingAge members and their residents and clients.

Our efforts would not have succeeded without the outstanding advocacy LeadingAge members did throughout the year. Just to mention a couple of indicators, over 1,100 housing residents from properties throughout the country came to our first-ever Capitol Hill rally in June to advocate in favor of Section 202. And whereas in the past we usually generated around 5,000 messages to Congress on various issues in any given year, this year members and their residents sent over 32,000.

For 2018, we are preparing to build on these successes. We have to anticipate renewed proposals for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other aging services programs. We still have to get fiscal 2018 spending legislation passed for senior housing and for home- and community-based services under the Older Americans Act. By early February, we may see the first federal budget proposals for fiscal 2019.

We are developing an affirmative LeadingAge policy agenda to preserve and enhance security and supports for people as they age. We have our recently-issued integrated services and long-term services and supports financing papers to give us direction.

Grassroots involvement will continue to be the key to our success. We look forward to working with all LeadingAge members and their residents in the year ahead.