By Amy York, EWA Executive Director
As we jump into 2017, this year is already about big transitions. We have a new President and Congress proposing substantial changes in many policy areas, including a major overhaul of our health care system. Many of our baby boomers are now 70 and will need significant care as we age. Workforce preparation for this care continues in a slow, piecemeal approach. At this point, it would be easy to get distracted.
To ensure we remain focused on workforce and family caregiving policies that advance a meaningful system of care with real choices for older adults and their families, EWA’s 2017 policy agenda will be focused on the following:
- Support the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) reauthorization and increased appropriations. In 2015, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded 44 GWEP community centers in 29 states with a specific focus on ensuring that primary care clinicians have the skills and knowledge to care for older adults. We are encouraged by the program’s early successes but we know we need to expand its reach to meet the growing need. In our communications with Congress and the Administration, we will highlight the flexibility this program provides communities and urge geographic expansion of the program especially in rural areas where workforce shortages are more pronounced.
- Support the recommendations in the 2016 Families Caring for an Aging America report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Specifically, EWA will advocate for development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, additional funding for caregiver support programs, and training dollars for both the paid workforce and caregivers.
- Develop and share information\data on how the proposed changes to our health system, such as repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid block grants will impact the spectrum of workers who care for older adults. In particular, EWA will look at how these changes could affect the ability of our workfor
ce to provide quality, coordinated care to older adults and their families. We will emphasize the importance of health care jobs, especially in rural areas, as key divers of economic growth and community stability.
- Highlight innovative programs and models that provide high-quality, integrated care, especially those at the Department of Veterans Affairs. EWA will continue to share information about programs that recognize the unique needs of older adults and provide care through a team-based, patient and family centered approach.
- Develop a State Based EWA Coalition Tool-Kit. EWA is working with Amanda Borer, a Health and Aging Fellow, to establish a North Carolina eldercare workforce alliance. It will bring together GWEPs, EWA members, and other state advocates to discuss ways they can work together on state policy initiatives. Our hope is to use this example to draft a tool-kit to establish similar coalitions in other states.
The challenge for all of us is to fight for the programs that form the basis of our care system for older adults and launch new initiatives to advance and prepare our eldercare workforce. We are committed to raising concerns about how reforms could impact the workforce and those we care for, but at the same time, EWA must offer solutions to move beyond the status-quo.
As the voice of the eldercare workforce, we look forward to working with our coalition members, aging and health workforce stakeholders, and policy makers to build the eldercare system that our grandparents, parents, and ourselves deserve.