Washington, D.C. – The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) today launched its new Health and Housing Task Force, designed to help policymakers meet the needs of the United States’ aging population. BPC believes that stable, affordable housing can improve health outcomes and reduce costs imposed on the health care system, particularly for the majority of seniors who wish to age in place. These challenges are critically important now, as governments prioritize limited resources. Leading this one-year effort are former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, former Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, and former Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.
By 2030, 73 million Americans will be 65 and older; nearly 9 million will be 85 and older. Seventy percent of those who reach 65 will require long-term services and supports, including help with tasks like bathing, cooking, and managing medications. Surveys show an overwhelming number of seniors want to age in place, yet their homes and communities are often ill-suited to make independent living a safe, viable option.
“Our aim is to call attention to this emerging challenge facing our nation,” said task force member and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. “This challenge offers incredible opportunity in the near-term, yet is on track to become a major crisis in the coming years if left unaddressed.”
Policy experts agree that the United States is woefully unprepared to cope with the needs of its rapidly aging population, and tight budgets add additional constraints. “With fewer workers supporting more retirees, government budgets and social service delivery systems will be severely tested,” said task force member and former Senator Mel Martinez. “That’s why our task force is seeking solutions ahead of the curve.”
Building on the work of BPC’s Housing Commission and in concert with its Long-Term Care Initiative, the Health and Housing Task Force will seek innovative, efficient, and cost-effective ways to meet the health and housing needs of the burgeoning senior population. Among its goals:
- Find cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors safe and viable. Identifying potential funding sources will be critical.
- Highlight best practices from states and localities for integrating housing, health care, and long-term services and supports. The task force will seek out programs that work and investigate how they can be replicated elsewhere
- Identify barriers to offering home- and community-based services and supports through Medicaid.
- Seek opportunities for further collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.
“Finding cost-effective ways to meet the needs of our aging population will be a major focus of our work,” said task force member and former Representative Allyson Schwartz. “In 2011, only about half of Medicaid-covered long-term services and supports were provided at home or in the community, even though for most seniors, home and community-based care is preferred and often significantly less expensive. We intend to find efficiencies to make aging in place both possible and affordable.”
“The Health and Housing Task Force will examine models of care at the state and local levels that successfully combine housing, health, and long-term services and supports,” said task force member and former Representative Vin Weber. “We want to showcase best practices, and help build momentum so that linking housing and health care for successful aging becomes regular practice.”
During the first quarter of 2016, the Health and Housing Task Force expects to produce specific policy recommendations both for Congress and the administration. Additional recommendations will help state policymakers, as well as health and housing providers and practitioners link their shared goals to improve health outcomes, cost-efficiency, and quality of life for America’s seniors.