HEALS Act Would Hurt Rather than Help Older Adults

HEALS Act Would Hurt Rather than Help Older Adults

California Health Advocates opposes the Senate’s proposed $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. This long overdue 4th COVID-19 response package, which was introduced by Senate Republican leadership earlier this week, does not address the needs of our country’s older adults, people with disabilities and those with low-income struggling to get by during this pandemic.

 

Instead, parts of the proposal would actually harm these people. For example, the “Trust Act” is a dangerous proposal embedded into the HEALS Act which would create a fast-track process to easily make cuts to Medicare and Social Security under the “premise” of securing solvency of the trust funds. If passed, these cuts could happen at a time precisely when people need these benefits the most to meet their basic needs. Instead of making it easier to slash these important programs, our legislation should strengthen Medicare and Social Security to help keep people out of poverty.

 

The HEALS Act also would protect health care providers and businesses from liability for COVID-19 illness and death. As quoted from a statement from our partners at Justice in Aging:

These provisions, which would give immunity to nursing facilities, excuse negligent care, and allow harm to residents to go unaddressed, would reward bad actors and remove incentives for facilities to comply with laws and regulations, eliminate one of the last remaining oversight protections for residents, place workers and communities at risk, and perpetuate racial disparities in health care.

 

In addition, at a time when nursing home residents amount to 42% of all COVID-19 death, the HEALS Act stripped out several key provisions to protect and secure nursing home residents of their safety, health and quality of life. Some for of the provisions struck from the bill include:

  • Promoting nursing home residents’ quality of life by enabling televisitation;
  • Providing resources for personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing for nursing home residents and staff;
  • Upgrading Nursing Home Compare and the Five-Star rating system;
  • Providing emergency supplemental funding for Adult Protective Services;
  • Reauthorizing the Elder Justice Act, which provided a dedicated funding stream for long-term care ombudsmen, Adult Protective Services, and elder abuse forensic centers and established the successful Elder Justice Coordinating Council.

 

Join us in saying no to the HEALS Act. Call your U.S. Senators today at 202-224-3121 to tell them this legislation is unacceptable.

 

Below are some talking points from our partners at Justice in Aging.

Tell Your Senators the Next COVID-19 Relief Bill Must:

  • Address systemic racism that is resulting in disproportionate harms to people of color, including older adults.
  • Increase funding for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) to keep people out of nursing homes and other institutions that are particularly dangerous right now.
  • Provide additional stimulus payments and ensure that they are automatically available to everyone, including all SSI and VA benefit recipients, adult dependents and people who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN).
  • Expand housing supports and homelessness prevention.
  • Increase SNAP benefits and enhance funding for senior legal services.
  • Remove the TRUST Act from the package and instead pass the “Social Security COVID Correction and Equity Act,” which would prevent cuts in Social Security benefits for those turning 60 in 2020 and expand benefits for those who need it most during the pandemic.
  • Oppose corporate immunity, including immunity for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.

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