Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Thousands Of NY Seniors Could Be Living Independently Rather Than In Nursing Homes – Gillibrand Announces New Plan To Help These Seniors Remain In Their Homes For As Long As Possible, Save Taxpayers Millions Each Year

New Legislation Creates First Federal Insurance Program to Make Long-Term Care Affordable, Help Seniors Live Independently

March 10, 2010

Washington, DC –With thousands of New Yorkers residing in nursing homes that could be living independently, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, today announced a broad agenda to help more New York seniors live independently in their homes for as long as they are able by expanding access to in-home care, incentivizing more health professionals to work with seniors and investing in transportation to maximize independence for seniors.  A cornerstone of Senator Gillibrand’s plan is a new national long-term care insurance program that will make long term care more affordable for seniors and future generations.

By living independently in their homes and relying less on nursing homes, seniors are more likely to remain active and live longer, healthier lives. Keeping seniors in their homes would also result in big savings for New York taxpayers. Based on previous state assessments, nearly 6,500 New York seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their own homes with better access to in-home care, saving New York taxpayers approximately $73 million annually.

“When seniors stay in their homes and maintain their independence, they live longer, healthier, happier lives and taxpayers save millions,” Senator Gillibrand said. “The health care reform legislation we are debating right now would provide long-term care insurance to help many middle class seniors afford the cost of quality care in their homes. My plan will build on this progress by expanding access to in-home care, emphasizing prevention to reduce hospital visits, incentivizing more health professionals to work with seniors in their homes, and investing in transportation so more seniors can live independently – the way they want to.”

READ the full report on how many seniors could benefit from Senator Gillibrand's long-term care plan and how much New York taxpayers would save.

  • In New York City, approximately 1,300 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $30 million.
  • In Western New York, approximately 300 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $6.5 million.
  • In the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, approximately 215 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $5 million.
  • In Central New York, approximately 230 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $5.3 million.
  • In the Southern Tier, approximately 125 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $2.8 million.
  • In the Capital Region, approximately 200 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $4.7 million.
  • In the North Country, approximately 100 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $2.1 million.
  • In the Hudson Valley, approximately 360 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $8.1 million.
  • On Long Island, approximately 380 seniors currently living in nursing homes could live independently in their homes, saving taxpayers approximately $8.7 million.

To give more seniors the opportunity to live independently and get the care they need in their own home, Senator Gillibrand announced the following plan:

Make Quality Long-Term Care Affordable Through the CLASS Act
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, known as the CLASS Act, would establish the first national insurance program to make long-term care affordable to seniors. The program is designed to provide special assistance to middle class seniors who are not eligible for Medicaid.

The CLASS Act, which was included in both the House and Senate health care bills and is included in President Obama’s health care reform legislation, would provide participants on a daily basis with money to pay for home care services, adult day programs, or assisted living situations. The program would be a completely voluntary, self-funded insurance program provided through employers and paid for through a payroll deduction of $30 per month. All working adults would be automatically enrolled, although there is an opt-out like with Medicare Part B. 

If a participant becomes disabled or is in need of assistance at any age, they will qualify for a daily cash benefit of about $50 to $100 per day, depending on the level of disability, to pay for activities of daily living (A.D.L.’s).

The benefits can be used to cover many of the costs associated with growing older, such as modifying the home to deal with physical difficulties, accessing assistive technologies, personal assistance services, and transportation.  These costs often get very high very quickly and are not something most families currently budget for.

The program does not replace the need for basic health insurance.  It merely provides a way to pay for non-medical expenses that allow a seniors or people with disabilities remain independent.

To qualify for benefits, one must be over the age of 18, have contributed to the program for at least 5 years, and be functionally disabled.  Benefits are cash and are distributed to a debit account on a monthly basis.  Any unused benefits can rollover from month to month, but not year to year. 

Expand Coverage for In-Home Care
Currently, Medicaid and Medicare cover significantly more long-term care services in institutions and nursing homes than they do in-home and community-based settings. To help more seniors get the care they need to live independently, Senator Gillibrand is pushing legislation that would expand access to community-based health services. 

The Home and Community Balanced Incentives Act would give seniors who are eligible for nursing home services equal access to community-based services and support, including attendant services by providing additional resources directly to states to expand long-term care services, home and community-based services.  It increases the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) – the matching formula for states for Medicaid – for states that spend less than 50 percent of their medical assistance spending on long-term services and support for non-institutional care, like home and community-based services. This bill also removes some of the barriers states face in providing home and community based services, by allowing states to provide services to individuals with higher levels of need. This component was also included in the health reform bills that passed both the House and Senate and will likely be included in President Obama’s plan.

Increase Workforce of Health Professionals Caring for Seniors
With the baby boom generation now entering retirement, the senior population will grow dramatically, placing increased demands on the health care workforce.  To ensure there is an adequate number of health care professionals to deliver the care that seniors need, Senator Gillibrand is pushing legislation that would incentivize more nursing students to pursue careers in senior health care.

Endorsed by AARP and the American Geriatrics Society, the Caring for An Aging America Act of 2009 would invest $130 million toward loan forgiveness, along with training and career advancement opportunities for health care professionals and direct-care workers who make a commitment to care for older adults. The legislation would also make investments to increase home health aides and personal care attendants who work in home and community-based settings.

To make wages for in-home senior care professionals more competitive, Senator Gillibrand is writing to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis urging the Labor Department to use its authority revise wage and hour laws so home health care workers can get the wages they deserve. Currently, home health care workers often make less than the minimum wage.

Invest in Transportation for Seniors
As seniors age they become extremely dependent on public forms of transportation.  Without ample transportation options, many seniors are forced to leave their homes and enter nursing homes.

To give seniors more transportation options, Senator Gillibrand is promoting critical funding for senior transportation initiatives in the pending Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill, which Congress is currently developing.  This legislation is the major, multi-year transportation bill that authorizes funding for the nation’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems. 

The 2005 Transportation Authorization Act included a range of initiatives to increase transportation access for seniors in rural and urban communities, as well as investments to improve safety for pedestrians. Now, Senator Gillibrand is using her seat on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee to build on these efforts, deliver New York’s fair share and ensure our seniors get access to the transportation options they need to remain independent for as long as possible. 

Additionally, Senator Gillibrand is co-sponsoring the Complete Streets Act of 2009, which would require almost all federally-funded transportation projects to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users, specifically seniors and pedestrians of all ages, bicyclists, public transit users, motorists and people with disabilities.

New York City’s Safe Streets for Seniors initiative successfully improved safety at crosswalks, medians and other walkways for seniors. The Complete Streets Act would extend New York City’s model to the rest of the state and country and span a broad range of transportation.