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Aging Studies Institute Conference Features Keynote by Deputy Secretary of HHS
The Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute held a conference on “Social Support and Service Provision to Older Adults” in New York City last month at which Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services William Corr was the featured speaker.
During his address, titled “A New Day for Older Americans: Addressing the Needs of Our Aging Population,” he discussed the promise of the Affordable Care Act to meet longstanding needs for our aging population, particularly caregiving and health care disparities among minorities. While the ACA has received plenty of political feedback, Corr said the federal agencies particularly welcome input from scholars that can help expand the health policy community’s knowledge base.
Corr told the group that among the most important features of the ACA is that it addresses health care disparities in minorities, who make up half of the uninsured and often do not have consistent access to health care until they reach 65 and sign up for Medicare. They then require more care, which drives up costs of the Medicare program. By providing subsidies and expanding Medicaid eligibility, the Affordable Care Act provides minorities with consistent access to health care throughout their lives, which would help over time to eliminate some of those disparities.
Corr also spoke about the increasing demands of caregiving for elderly Americans. Today, he said, more Americans than ever have full responsibility for caring for aging parents and grandparents and are shouldering much of the burden that hospitals used to manage.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, there was no national policy aimed at caregivers beyond the Family and Medical Leave Act. ACA created national standards of care for the elderly, particularly those with diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, enabling family caregivers to acquire services to relieve some of the burden while better assisting loved ones. These new standards are particularly important as health care has evolved from the sole domain of medical professionals to the responsibility of family caregivers.
ACA standards are necessary for improving services, support and long-term care, Corr added, and scholars can play a critical role in helping to identify risk factors and challenges for family caregivers.
The conference preceding Deputy Secretary Corr’s address included papers that considered how informal care provided by family and friends articulates with formal long-term care policies and programs to provide support to the diverse population of older Americans. The topics addressed included long-term caregiving, cognitive functioning among caregivers, care networks among LGBT elders, supportive housing and health care delivery to rural elders.
For a complete conference schedule visit http://asi.syr.edu/event/2014-cantor-conference/. An edited volume based on the conference papers will be published later this year in Baywood’s “Society and Aging Series.”
The Aging Studies Institute is a collaborative initiative of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University.