Congress Continues its Commitment to Alzheimer’s Policy
On October 2, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) reintroduced the Care Corps Demonstration Act. The bill recognizes the growing demand for services and supports to help seniors and individuals with disabilities living independently in their homes, and the need to support family caregivers who facilitate that independence. To respond to the rise in demand for these services, the bill provides grants to public agencies and private nonprofits to place volunteers in communities to assist family caregivers and/or assist seniors and individuals with disabilities in maintaining independence by providing non-medical care. AIM and the Alzheimer’s Association are proud supporters of this legislation and we look forward to both chambers taking action!
COVID-19 Updates from Congress
In October, a Republican-led “skinny” COVID-19 relief package failed to clear the 60-vote threshold on a key procedural vote to move the legislation forward in the Senate. The measure was nearly identical to a bill introduced in September which also failed to garner enough support to move forward. Both chambers adjourned in preparation for the November 3, 2020 election without passing a fourth COVID-19 relief package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have continued to negotiate. Stay tuned for further updates.
Around the Alzheimer’s Community
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that all long-term care facility residents and staff will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost. The federal government is partnering with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to distribute the vaccine and provide it to the long-term care community. The program, which is expected to take two months to conduct, applies to nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other residential care homes.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) Governing Council adopted their first-ever policy statement in October designed to strengthen the public health response to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive health. The statement, developed by an interdisciplinary committee of APHA members, outlines the ever-growing need for a dementia-capable workforce and calls for increased investment in the health and social care of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. In response to the growing need for a dementia-capable workforce, the statement — Strengthening the Dementia Care Workforce: A Public Health Priority — calls for investment in health and social care for people with dementia, including:
- Adoption of clear standards and action steps for hiring, training, and retaining an adequately sized and skilled workforce in the health care, public health, and long-term care sectors;
- Improved public financing of community-based services; and
- Rigorous public monitoring of quality to support improvement in the provision of care across the care continuum.
Alzheimer’s Advocacy in the States
A number of state successes addressing the impact of COVID-19 and the crisis in long-term care were announced in October as special legislative sessions wound down and governors worked to direct CARES Act funding:
- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) announced that he is directing $73 million in CARES Act funding to provide hazard pay to home health personal care attendants who served high-risk populations during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. A one-time, pre-tax payment of $1,500 will be available to an estimated 43,500 home health care workers who provide personal care and who served Medicaid members between March 12 and June 30, 2020. During a special session, Virginia’s legislature also agreed to budget language that prioritizes rapid testing for long-term care communities. Additionally, Virginia enacted key reporting legislation. The Virginia Department of Health is now required to maintain a public website naming all entities, including long-term care communities, that have disease outbreaks with the number of cases and the number of deaths. The bill applies to the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic and all future disease outbreaks deemed a public health emergency by the governor.
- New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) announced that he is directing an additional $7 million to support the state’s long-term care response. The funding will concentrate on providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing supplies.
- Delaware Governor John Carney (D) announced the creation of a Health Care Relief Fund to support Delaware health care providers through the pandemic. The $100 million fund will support providers throughout the health care industry that have been on the front lines fighting COVID-19 in Delaware. This includes home health care agencies, intellectual and developmental disability providers, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, behavioral health service providers, and Delaware’s hospital systems.
- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) announced the creation of an online portal to help a number of home- and community-based services and residential long-term care providers obtain PPE and report shortages. Providers can obtain up to $575 per qualifying bed. The program is funded through the CARES Act.
- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed two bills into law which were part of an earlier package of long-term care reform bills that were introduced following the poor response at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Bill 2785 requires long-term care communities to establish social isolation prevention policies and to require residents’ access to technology to ensure regular communication with outside family members. Senate Bill 2712 creates the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment to address workforce shortages and training needs.
The 2020 Circle
On October 7, Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) met on stage for their only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election. USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page moderated the debate which was held in Salt Lake City, Utah. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden then took to the stage on October 22 for the final presidential debate of the election cycle. The debate was moderated by Kristen Welker of NBC News and took place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Our Mission Continues
COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and their 16 million caregivers. We remain committed to our mission to ensure those within our community receive the care and support they need and deserve. Thanks to your incredible efforts, policymakers remain steadfast in the fight against Alzheimer’s, enabling us to further our policy priorities in a strong, bipartisan way. Join us as we continue to ensure the needs of the Alzheimer’s and dementia community remain a national priority through this crisis and beyond.
As always, whether you provide daily care, participate in decision-making, or simply care about someone with the disease, AIM and the Alzheimer’s Association are here to support you. Reach out using the Association’s free 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 or at alz.org/COVID19.