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Health and Housing Must-Reads, October 30

Welcome to What We’re Reading in Health and Housing. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launched a Health and Housing Task Force earlier this year. We are sharing recent publications, speeches and testimony we consider relevant to our work. The views expressed in these pieces do not necessarily represent the views of the task force, its co-chairs, members, advisors or BPC.

Compiled by Nikki Rudnick and Jake Varn

It’s Time to Build Up HUD’s HOME Program, Not Tear It Down
By Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond and Sec. Henry Cisneros, Roll Call

“Over the past two decades, the HOME Investment Partnerships program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development has played an indispensable role in supporting the affordable housing needs of hundreds of thousands of low-income families in both urban and rural America. Unfortunately, the program finds itself on the congressional chopping block, a victim of budget politics and sequestration.

“Unlike many federal programs with a ‘Washington-knows-best’ approach, HOME is driven by local needs and demands. It is highly flexible, allowing communities throughout the country to use program dollars in ways that respond directly to their own unique housing conditions.” Read the article.

Where Will 78 Million Boomers Retire? Facing the Challenge of Aging in Place
By Eric Piani, The Fiscal Times

“The challenge for many to both stay relatively healthy and hang onto their homes is formidable. An estimated 80 percent of seniors in the U.S have chronic health conditions that potentially could force them into nursing homes or assisted living without adequate health care support. And while 87 percent of seniors said in an AARP survey that their fondest desire is to remain in their homes and communities, depleted incomes and savings are making that harder and harder for many Americans.” Read the article. Read BPC’s report.

Could a valuable housing policy help elect the next President?
By Pamela Patenaude, HousingWire

“By any measure, the troubling conditions in housing — soaring rents, a plummeting national homeownership rate, and a shortage of affordable housing for our nation’s seniors — should be a top-tier issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Yet, so far this primary season, the word “housing” has barely passed the lips of the presidential candidates of either party. That is, until last week, when seven candidates took time out of their campaign schedules to attend the day-long Housing Summit at the Saint Anselm College New Hampshire Institute of Politics.” Read the article.

Priciest housing markets getting further out of reach
By John Schoen, CNBC

“If interest rates rise, so will the cost of buying a house, pushing some would-be homebuyers to the sidelines. Many of those home shoppers are already getting priced out, as the full cost of homeownership chews up a bigger share of the median household’s monthly paycheck, according to an analysis of homeownership costs by real estate site Trulia.

“Most housing affordability measures look only at direct costs of ownership such as mortgage payments, taxes and insurance. But homeowners still have to pay monthly utility bills and get to work every day. When those costs are accounted for, the numbers look a lot different, according to Trulia’s data.” Read the article.

How “villages” help seniors age at home
By Stuart M. Butler and Carmen Diaz, Brookings Institution

“Many forecasts in the 1980s predicted nursing home use would increase sharply alongside the aging baby boomer population. Yet nursing home occupancy has experienced a decline of almost 3 percent over the past decade. In part, this reflects a preference for staying in one’s home (‘aging at home’) or in other independent living alternatives, as well as the high prices that discourage many from living in a comprehensive senior facility and keeps them at home.” Read the article.

The Effect on States of Increasing the Medicare Eligibility Age
By Timothy Waidmann and Emily Lawton, Urban Institute

“Proposals to raise the eligibility age for Medicare may have unintended consequences for state government finances. The medical care of persons who currently receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits, also known as “dual eligibles,” could become the sole responsibility of Medicaid. In this brief we estimate the number of such individuals in each state and the amount of current Medicare spending that could be shifted to state Medicaid programs. The actual cost impact of such a policy change for an individual state depends on both the demographic makeup of its population and its decision about Medicaid expansion under the ACA.” Read the report.

Jersey City’s Innovative New Affordable Housing Plan Might Actually Work
By Tanvi Misra, CityLab

“‘Jersey City is really blowing up.’ That’s a common refrain among people living in and around New Jersey’s second-largest city.

“The historically industrial area has come a long way from the 1960s and 1970s, when jobs, residents, and investment began to disappear. The city has since repackaged itself as the cheaper, homier alternative to Manhattan and Brooklyn. Today it has young and diverse residents, many of whom work in New York, a short train ride away. By living on the Jersey side of the Hudson they avoid those high New York state income taxes.” Read the article.

The Latest on Geographic Variation in Medicare Spending: A Demographic Divide Persists But Variation Has Narrowed
By Juliette Cubanski, Tricia Neuman, and Chapin White, Kaiser Family Foundation

“Geographic variation in Medicare utilization and spending has been a frequent subject of discussion and analysis among researchers and policymakers for many years. Some researchers have suggested that the differences in Medicare spending across geographic areas resulted mainly from differences in practice patterns, which could be addressed by policy interventions, such as changes in financial incentives for providers. Other researchers have emphasized differences in beneficiaries’ health and socioeconomic status as drivers of geographic variation in Medicare spending, which are less amenable to policy intervention than practice patterns.” Read the report.

To Reduce Health Costs, Insurer Spends on Housing
By Edgar Walters, The Texas Tribune 

“Nine years ago, Dalton Duffie was trying to fall asleep under a trailer — where he’d temporarily sought refuge from the pouring Austin rain — when he realized he would not live much longer if he stayed on the streets.

“Haunted by a constant hunger and the relentless cravings of drug addiction, Duffie was oblivious to the illnesses ravaging his body: the dangerously high blood pressure threatening heart failure and the hepatitis C infecting his liver…

“Now, one private company that provides health insurance to poor and disabled Texans is taking a gamble that it can keep vulnerable patients like Duffie healthier — and save money — with a cash investment to get them off the street and into supportive housing.” Read the article.

Communities Struggle to Care for Elderly, Alone at Home
By Jennifer Levitz, Wall Street Journal

“More elderly across the nation are aging at home for a variety of reasons: they prefer to and are healthy enough to stay; they can’t afford other options such as assisted living; and states in some cases have imposed policies to limit nursing home stays paid for by Medicaid, which is a major funder of long-term institutional health care for older Americans.” Read the article.

For Minnesotans aging in place, link health to housing
By Vin Weber and Martin Sabo, Star Tribune

“The United States is on the cusp of a major expansion of its senior population, a demographic trend that will sweep through Minnesota like a strong prairie wind.

“According to St. Paul’s Wilder Research, Minnesota’s older adult population (65 and older) will more than double between 2010 and 2030 as Minnesota’s 1.3 million baby boomers head into retirement.” Read the article.

Interview with Sec. Henry Cisneros: “Reverse Mortgages Offer Creative Solution to Aging in Place Crisis”
By Jason Oliva, Reverse Mortgage Daily

RMD: “Last week, you attended the New Hampshire Housing Summit, an event co-sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). The Summit even featured several Presidential candidates. In your opinion, why is it important to have conversations about creating more solutions focused on helping America’s booming senior population age in place, especially at an event like the New Hampshire Summit?

Henry Cisneros: “One of the really pressing priorities for our country, in terms of our housing stock, is facing up to the reality that this aging tsunami where we’re going to have double the population over 65 years of age and triple over 85 years of age within the next 30 years. This is going to require a different approach to appropriate housing.” Read the interview. 

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