May 5, 2021

White House recognizes assisted living’s ‘critical importance’ as aging services provider

McKnight Senior Living – Kim Bonvissuto

An announcement from the federal government about the release of $1.4 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan for programs affecting older adults for the first time acknowledges assisted living as a provider of home- and community-based services.

Monday, the White House announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living had released funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for Older Americans Act programs. Those programs support vaccine outreach and coordination, address social isolation, offer nutrition support and ensure safety and protection of older adults.

In the announcement, the White House also mentioned other initiatives and noted assisted living communities as a provider of long term services and supports. The American Jobs Plan, the announcement noted, proposes investing an additional $400 billion to expand access to LTSS for older Americans and invest in caregivers through increased wages and benefits, the ability to collectively bargain, and the creation of state infrastructure to improve the quality of services and support workers.

American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living that it is significant that the Biden administration recognizes assisted living as an eligible HCBS setting, which is important to any enhancement of the program envisioned by the administration and Congress.

“ASHA will advocate that assisted living plays an important role in delivering LTSS to Medicaid beneficiaries and that even broader policy proposals should be considered to expand benefits that can be used in home settings as those offered by senior living providers for the growing older adult population,” Schless said. 

Argentum President and CEO James Balda said he was “extremely encouraged” by the administration’s recognition of assisted living’s “critical importance.”

“Assisted living will remain a critical resource in meeting the needs of our aging population, and we are pleased that the administration is calling for an investment specifically in long-term care,” Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We are hopeful that the American Jobs Plan will also include targeted funding for assisted living caregivers who received little relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will be following up with the administration to address our workforce challenges.”

Balda said that Argentum will work to share more details on the SENIOR (Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources) Act, which addresses immediate COVID-19-related challenges and plans for future long-term care needs.

A spokesperson for LeadingAge said that although details on exactly how the proposed $400 billion in funding might be delivered still are unknown, the funds “could” expand access to assisted living, since the sector is part of the HCBS program in states where it is covered by Medicaid.

The organization said it is pleased that the American Rescue Plan funding for Older American Act programs was released and that LeadingAge supported the one year, 10-point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage of Medicaid HCBS.

LeadingAge also supports further investment in aging services as the infrastructure proposal takes shape, as outlined in the organization’s Blueprint for a Better Aging Infrastructure, the spokesperson said. 

“We are hopeful that state Medicaid agencies will use the forthcoming enhanced HCBS FMAP dollars to invest in services across settings, including assisted living,” the LeadingAge spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The National Center for Assisted Living said that the American Jobs Plan recognizes that improving the nation’s infrastructure means investing in the healthcare system and extending more support to long-term care services in home- and community-based settings.

“With one in six assisted living residents relying on Medicaid for their daily care, we appreciate federal officials recognizing the importance of expanding access to home- and community-based services like assisted living,” an NCAL spokesperson said.

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