WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today met with Assistant Secretary of Aging Kathy Greenlee to discuss the Older Americans Act, which is up for reauthorization in 2011.   Traditionally, the Aging Committee takes a lead role in working with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to reauthorize the statute that covers the programs administered by the Administration on Aging.  


"The Older Americans Act serves as the pipeline for all the local agencies that offer nutrition programs, adult protective services, and legal programs, as well as those that provide caregiver support and transportation assistance," said Kohl.   "These are the crucial services so many seniors rely on in their daily lives, and I am looking forward to revisiting and improving this important legislation for America's growing aging population."


Kohl and Greenlee also discussed the Administration on Aging's (AoA) expanded caregiving initiative, which stems from the work of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families.   The initiative will help families improve the care they provide to aging relatives and support seniors trying to remain independent in their communities.   An estimated 38 million Americans provide unpaid care to an aging relative, including approximately 23 million caregivers with jobs and 12 million who are also caring for their own children.  Roughly half of the $102.5 million requested in the FY2011 budget for this initiative would provide home and community-based services to seniors, and half would provide services to caregivers, including respite.


Both of these aims fall in line with Chairman Kohl's Aging Committee agenda.   At the beginning of the 110 th Congress, Kohl was joined by Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in introducing legislation to offer training and support to family caregivers as part of an overall effort to address the impending severe shortage of health care workers who are adequately skilled and prepared to care for older Americans.   The Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act (S. 245) incorporates major recommendations put forth in a 2008 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report.   Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.   Provisions of the bill have been included in both the Senate, House, and White House health reform proposals.


Kohl has also introduced, with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Home and Community Balancing Incentives Act (S. 1256) to reform long-term care systems by offering enhanced federal Medicaid matching rates to states that are willing to implement home and community-based health care programs.   With the nation's population aging at a rapid rate, more and more Americans will need long-term care services and supports to help them with day-to-day activities.   The bill will provide states with resources and financial incentives to broaden the range of Medicaid services offered to people in their homes and communities, allowing more of them to live as independently as possible, while also controlling state costs.   Provisions of the bill have been included in both the Senate and White House health reform proposals.


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