The change to Democratic control of the U.S. House means an end to legislative attempts to repeal ACA. In addition, incoming Democratic committee chairs have promised new oversight into administrative issues that have weakened the program.

Voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska supported the Medicaid expansion for which the ACA provided. We also are optimistic that a House led by Democrats will not pass the kinds of attacks on Medicaid, including block grant and per capita cap proposals, which we had to fight in 2017 as part of the ACA repeal effort.

Before the new Congress begins, the current Congress will meet in a lame duck session. The primary task for the lame duck will be completion of fiscal 2019 spending bills. We are most concerned about senior housing appropriations, which are under a continuing resolution that expires December 7. We are working for the maximum possible levels of funding for affordable housing for older people and are urging the outgoing Congress to finalize fiscal 2019 funding so as to prevent payment problems that tend to occur when programs are subjected to a string of continuing resolutions.

We also are urging the current Congress to finish work on the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources, and Care (EMPOWER Care) Act, H.R. 5306 and S. 2227. The legislation would reauthorize the Money Follows the Person demonstration program which expands consumer choice of settings in which to receive long-term services and supports.

The new Congress convening in January will have a host of new members, given the number of seats that changed party control and the retirement of several long-time legislators. The House gained historic diversity, with more than 100 women winning seats, and new African American, Muslim, Latino/Latina and Native American House members. With a new Democratic House majority, committee chairs will change and Democrats will gain more seats on key committees with jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, affordable housing, and appropriations.

These changes give us challenges and opportunities to educate the incoming Congress on the long-term services and supports on which people rely as they age. We will work to build on successes we achieved over the last two years in improving Medicare coverage, gaining new construction funding for senior housing, and the beginnings of regulatory reform. Many successful candidates ran on promises of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure; we will seek to translate that promise into expansion of affordable housing.

This year, LeadingAge has held town halls all around the country. While we are still formulating our policy objectives for next year, we expect to be active in the following areas:

  • Opposition to any cutbacks in the Medicare and Medicaid programs that finance 70% of long-term care;
  • Advocacy for maximum possible funding for senior housing and home- and community-based services;
  • Reintroduction of H.R. 6986, the Nursing Home Workforce Quality Act, to end the mandatory certified nursing assistant training lock-out, and other regulatory relief, especially for nursing homes;
  • Long-term services and supports financing reform. An initial concept paper was put forward earlier this year by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), now poised to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Immigration reforms that would help our members recruit more workers;
  • Other workforce development legislation, including a reintroduction of H.R. 3778, the Direct CARE Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA); and H.R. 3461, the Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens through Workforce Advancement Act sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA).
  • Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act that funds home- and community-based services.

Divided control of Congress, with Republicans having consolidated their majority in the Senate, will require working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to reach solutions to issues confronting older adults and LeadingAge members who provide the long-term services and supports many need.

As a non-partisan, non-profit organization, LeadingAge always has taken this approach to public policy. We are not Democrat or Republican. We are for our members and the people they serve. We will work with both sides to achieve public policies to further the future of aging services and move our field forward.

For much Medicare and Medicaid legislation – the kind that affects our members – staff from both parties have made it clear that bills have to be bi-partisan to be considered at the end, when it counts. That’s how therapy caps got repealed, for example, in the Bipartisan Budget Act. So regardless of who controls the House or Senate, we will need support from both parties.

We look forward to working with legislators and leaders in both parties to advance an agenda helpful to older adults and providers of the aging services on which many rely.