WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation to improve the quality and lower the cost of healthcare for older Americans. Senator Casey’s bill would establish demonstrations to design and test models of care that use direct-care workers in advanced roles to treat the 6 in 10 Americans over 65 years in age in need of such care.
“Direct-care workers are key to providing services that improve the health of older Americans and reduce re-hospitalizations, vastly improving the quality of life for our older citizens and reducing costs and strain on the entire health care industry,” Senator Casey said. “My legislation will help to better train and utilize direct-care workers to lower the cost and improve the quality of health care provided to older Americans.”
Despite the growing need for management of chronic illnesses, few programs exist to train direct-care workers for the advanced skills needed to support better care and reduce re-hospitalizations. Direct care workers provide 70 to 80 percent of the paid hands-on, long-term care received by older Americans with disabilities or chronic conditions.
Senator Casey’s Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens Through Workforce Advancement Act of 2011 (S. 1982) would amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to establish six three-year programs to study care coordination and improved delivery of health services for older adults suffering from chronic illness or at risk of re-hospitalization. The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
The programs will focus on finding ways to:
- Use direct-care workers to promote smooth transitions in care and help prevent unnecessary hospital readmissions;
- Maintain and improve the health of older Americans with multiple chronic conditions and long-term care needs by utilizing direct-care workers to monitor health status, help patients follow prescribed care and educate patients and their families; and
- Train direct-care workers to take on deeper clinical responsibilities related to specific diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, congestive heart failure and diabetes.