POLICY PROPOSALS TO WATCH
Advocates for African American Elders has identified proposals that are important for the health and well-being of seniors. You can get involved and help ensure that these proposals become law by writing a letter of support to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. at: State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814. To see an example of a letter to the governor, click here.
1). The Senior Health Promotion Act (AP-1) proposal would utilize prevention funding, through the California’s implementation of the Federal Affordable Care Act, to fund more evidence-based programs for seniors that would support seniors’ desire to age in place. “Aging in place” means that seniors can remain in their homes and community and avoid living in a long-term care facility, such as a skilled nursing home, for as long as possible.
Currently, enrollment of African American seniors in skilled nursing facilities is on the rise in California. This is due, in part, to the lack of long-term care options for African American seniors and the high cost of these options. However, institutionalization can be avoided or delayed with proper prevention. African Americans are twice as likely as whites to die from preventable diseases, such as stroke and heart disease.
Despite the availability of effective treatments and prevention for conditions like diabetes, infectious and respiratory diseases, preventable cancers and circulatory diseases like hypertension, African Americans have an increased risk of premature death. Evidence-based programs for chronic disease self-management, falls prevention, physical activity, care transitions and medication management are urgently needed in our communities to address health disparities.
Evidence-based programs are based on research and are endorsed by federal agencies. They are also rigorously evaluated and many have demonstrated health benefits for African American seniors. However, our community needs access to more effective, culturally sensitive evidence-based programs.
This proposal was authored by Senior Assembly Member Borenstein of Los Angeles. To read the proposed measure, click here.
2). The Medi-Cal Coverage: Falls Risk Assessment (AP-31) would include similar falls prevention education, assessments and in-home interventions as covered benefits under California’s Medi-Cal Program. Currently, falls prevention education, assessments and interventions are not covered by Medi-Cal.
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths in seniors. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Falls can also result in increased dependence, confusion, immobilization, depression, and restriction in daily activities. Falls increase admission into a nursing care facility, emergency room visits and hospitalization. While all seniors are at risk, African American women with diabetes have an increased risk of falling compared to other seniors.
This proposal was authored by Senior Assembly Member Rolfe of Suisun. To read the proposed measure, click here.
3). The Geriatric Behavioral Health (AP-18) proposal would establish two geriatric behavioral health positions to provide senior level behavioral health leadership and expert support: one within the California Department of Aging, and one within the California Department of Health Care Services, Behavioral Health Care Services.
The current mental health workforce is too small and unprepared to meet the behavioral health needs of seniors. More than 1,000,000 additional direct care workers will be needed to care for seniors by 2018.
Huge racial disparities exist in the mental health workforce. African Americans make up 13% of the population in the United States. However, only 5% of all physicians, 3% of all psychiatrists, 2% of all psychologists and 4% of all social workers in the United States are African American. This means that African Americans are not likely to be treated by an African American mental health professional. In addition, the current workforce lacks training in geriatrics or gerontology and with the increasing number of African American seniors, training is needed on how to care for our seniors in a culturally competent way.
Currently, there is no senior level public official in California with expertise in aging or behavioral health care that can provide leadership and support aging and mental health initiatives.
This proposal was authored by Senior Assembly Member Krohn of Walnut Creek. To read the proposed measure, click here.
4). The Medicare: Dental Coverage (AFP-6) proposal would include general dental examinations and other services for good dental health as a covered benefit under the Medicare Program. Currently, Medicare does not cover services in connection with the care, treatment, filling, removal, or replacement of teeth or structures directly supporting teeth. If this measure is adopted, general dental examinations and other services for good dental health will be covered under the Medicare program. Dental infections can cause or exacerbate heart conditions and other diseases. Tooth loss can make eating difficult which can lead to poor nutrition. Dental examinations can help identify oral cancer.
Oral diseases are among the most common chronic conditions affecting African American seniors. African American men, in particular, suffer greater rates of dental decay, periodontal disease, and oral cancer than the general population. Oral diseases are among the most prevalent chronic conditions experienced by African American men, affecting their appearance and ability to eat and communicate. With 4,500,000 people enrolled, California has the largest number of Medicare beneficiaries of any state. About 5% or 225,000 are African American seniors.
This proposal was authored by Senior Assembly Member Lindley of San Jose. To read the proposed measure, click here.