The future needs for long-term care are daunting: By the end of the decade an additional 20 million Americans will be over age 65, and by 2060 nearly 95 million Americans will be age 65 or older. This aging population, especially those over 85 who are most in need of long-term care, is expected to result in a tripling of long-term care expenditures, to $346 billion annually by 2040.
There is an urgent need to invest in long-term care, and Argentum is leading efforts with the Biden administration and Congress to urge prioritization for senior living communities. The recent unveiling of the first element of President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal, The American Jobs Plan, underscores this: $400 billion alone is targeted for investment in care for elderly and disabled populations.
These programs will be realized through an extraordinary legislative effort in Congress, as lawmakers consider options for meeting the long-term infrastructure needs of an aging nation. Argentum lobbyists held nearly 50 meetings in the last two weeks of March alone, primarily focusing on lawmakers who serve on the key committees in the House of Representatives responsible for drafting the legislation: Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
What’s our ask?
Argentum’s message is simple: America needs to prepare for the exponentially growing demand for long-term care services, and to do so, providers not only need access to financial resources to adequately prepare for these increasing needs, but also immediate financial relief to address the unprecedented expenses and losses associated with caring for this most vulnerable population during COVID-19.
Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic, many providers don’t have the necessary resources to meet these financial challenges. Federal pandemic relief has been insufficient to offset the more than $15 billion in expenses and losses that providers have incurred in caring for those most at-risk to COVID-19. This has caused undue financial hardship for providers on the front lines of the pandemic, while otherwise leaving communities ill-equipped to invest in the growing need for long-term services.
That’s why Argentum is calling on policymakers to specifically include a long-term care section of the infrastructure package to both provide immediate relief to senior living operators (a “sustainability fund”), along with long-term investments in facilities, technology, and infection prevention and control measures.
A new set of needs
Among the recommendations in capital investments:
- National investments in systems to prevent infectious diseases, such as air quality and HVAC system upgrades to reduce airborne transmission of viruses, upgrades of water purification systems, and infrared/UVL systems.
- Expanding open and outdoor spaces to support social distancing and visitation.
- Physical plant alterations to support cohorting.
- Installation of touchless devices and fixtures to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
Technology improvements sought include:
- Expanded access to wireless infrastructure to better leverage telehealth.
- Upgrades for resident safety systems for surveillance tracking.
- Robotics and internet-enabled devices to reduce contagion spread.
- Enhanced visitor management technology to improve wellness screening.
- Measures to help protect seniors’ sensitive information through electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs), data management and information security systems, and cybersecurity measures.
Investments could be made through federal funding such as grants, low-interest loans, and tax deductions, or with direct investments in the capital projects of facilities.
In fact, one such proposal, the LIFT America Act, proposes reauthorizing the Hill-Burton Act (the 1945 law that spearheaded national investments in hospital construction) by injecting $2 billion for hospital infrastructure, along with $10.5 billion for community-based care, and $85 billion to expand broadband access nationwide.
If anything, the pandemic has demonstrated the devastating impact of social isolation and the importance of effective investments in infection control. Substantial investments now in technology, facilities, and infection control will help prepare our nation to protect the health, safety, and quality of life of tens of millions of seniors in decades to come.
President Biden’s infrastructure plan, part of the administration’s broader Build Back Better program, signals an intention for making one of the largest federal investments in senior care since the 1965 adoption of Medicare. Argentum’s advocacy efforts, conducted by meeting with one congressional office at a time, are to ensure that these investments fully reach senior living communities.
Collectively, we can influence change that will have long-lasting impacts in the future of senior living.