Merkley proposes coordinated care for seniors

A bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley would bring some of Oregon’s innovations in care for older people to the rest of the nation.
Among the proposals in his bill is a pilot project for a community care initiative, similar to Oregon’s coordinated-care organizations for low-income recipients of state-supported health care. Under the initiative, coordinators would work to draw together such services as meal deliveries, home visits and transportation assistance to individuals.
“We are going to have a huge surge in the demand for senior services, and we need to work to deliver these services as effectively as possible,” the Oregon Democrats told reporters in a conference call Thursday.
“By taking what Oregon has pioneered, we have a significant tool that can enhance the quality of life for our seniors and greatly decrease costs as seniors age.”
In two national reports sponsored by AARP, the most recent in June, Oregon ranked among the top states in offering older adults alternatives to care in nursing homes and hospitals, mostly in their own homes and community settings.
Merkley said that during his decade in the Oregon House, the final two years as speaker, he tried to maintain that emphasis.
“A lot of folks were coming to Oregon to see what we were doing because Oregon was considered to be on the leading edge,” Merkley says.
“Part of my goal here is to take the lessons Oregon has learned and build on them, to demonstrate this a model that can be done much more at the national level.”
The proposal is contained in a bill that proposes other changes to the Older Americans Act, the 1965 federal law that establishes a variety of services for older people. Other changes are:
• Better coordination of services for older people and people with disabilities so that they can go to one place to seek help. Oregon’s state and regional agencies already combine the two groups.
• Additional help for programs aimed at early detection of elder financial abuse, and financial education to help older people avert such problems.
• Improved access to support services from older low-income people who live in low-income housing or federally assisted rental housing.
• Greater outreach efforts to older people about public and private services available to them.