Blog January 24, 2020

Spotlight: Looking Forward to 2020 in Geriatrics Workforce Policy

What does the policy landscape for 2020 look like for the Eldercare Workforce Alliance?

Congress is in the middle of the 116th session and EWA continues to advocate for bills introduced in the last year.  In particular, we continue to lead efforts on the geriatrics workforce reauthorization legislation, that include the only federal geriatrics training programs.  These programs are vital to the future of us all as we age.

EWA also remains committed to another important bill recently endorsed by the Alliance, the Direct CARE Opportunity Act (H.R. 4397) (S. 2521).  This act would support and invest in the direct-care workforce by providing funding to entities to invest in strategies to recruit, retain, and advance this workforce.

EWA continues to provide input to the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council, that was created by the RAISE Family Caregivers Act in 2018 to develop a national plan on caregiving.  EWA will also support Advisory Council’s funding in our appropriations requests as they develop and maintain a strategy to support caregivers across the country.

EWA also maintains our support for increased funding for critical services provided through the Older American’s Act in the reauthorization process.   Congress has made important improvements in the legislation and EWA will urge passage of the reauthorization this year.

Finally, EWA also tracks a number of policy priorities (you can read more about our priorities here) relating to the workforce that cares for older adults and will address other important issues throughout the year.

Tell us more about EWAs efforts to advocate for geriatrics workforce programs and what to look for this year.

EWA has been a leading voice in advocating for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACA) since our inception.  Over the past few years we have seen increases to the programs by a few million dollars, and we are working to get the number to $51 million from its current appropriated level of $40.7 million.  The $51 million will go to fill in geographic gaps and address workforce shortages in geriatrics training across the country.  We ended 2019 with a flurry of activity around these programs, namely a bill in the Senate that would reauthorize these programs along with other Title VII programs.

The bill, The Title VII Health Care Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (S. 2997), included reauthorizing the GWEP/GACA programs, but it did so a funding level of our last appropriated amount of $40.7 million.  It also included a number of provisions that didn’t line up with our requested language for the programs (you can read about the issues in our letter to the Senate here).  We are currently working with both the House and Senate to address these issues as we enter the new year.

What is the current climate in Congress as we head into an election year?

The past couple years have been an interesting time to advocate for workforce programs on Capitol Hill, and this year looks to be no different.  While the impeachment proceedings are taking up all of the oxygen in the media and with the members of congress, this time can actually create a time of productivity for staff of the members, particularly around issues unrelated to impeachment. There will be a shorter window of time though with the Presidential election creating a shorter legislative calendar.

Once the President’s budget is released in early February, we’ll likely be on the move in response to that, and by connecting with members of the appropriations committee in supporting the importance of the programs in which we advocate, as the President’s budget has zeroed workforce programs every year since President Trump was elected.

All in all, I would say the climate seems to be chaotic and heated from a high-level, but I think there are still members and staff on both sides of the aisle that care about workforce priorities.

Are there other projects EWA is focused on in 2020?

EWA is in the midst of developing a Mental Health Principles document that we anticipate releasing sometime this summer.   The document will address Older Adult Mental Health and Substance Abuse issues as it relates to the eldercare workforce.

EWA continues to work with Michigan State through a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation to update data that was in the pivotal Institute of Medicine (IoM) report, Retooling for an Aging America:  Building the Health Care Workforce.  We anticipate results this spring and summer from this study.  This data is used in all of our materials and will be important for EWAs work in the years to come.

Finally, EWA is also reviewing the recommendations is the National Academies report, Integrating Social Care into the Delivery of Health Care:  Moving Up Stream to Improve the Nation’s Health, from an aging perspective.  Many of the recommendations are specific to workforce and EWA hopes to determine which recommendations are most relevant to EWAs work moving forward.  At the same time, we are also reviewing the recommendations included in another National Academy report, Families Caring for an Aging America.    Given the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Panel work, many of the recommendations will be addressed by the Advisory Panel.   Ultimately, EWA will develop plans, in partnership with coalition members and funders, to address the relevant recommendations in our work moving forward.