History of Senior Care in the US

An important parameter for judging the level of progressiveness of any country is the way it looks after its senior citizens by way of health care, through assisted living in elder care. There are so many other aspects to the economy of a nation, typically this is one area that tends to get pushed aside. In the United States, the elder care sector received a boost in 1965 with the introduction of Medicare which introduced some provisions for insurance for senior citizens. However, it was not before 1985 that dedicated legislation for elder care was introduced, with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, which was a refinement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which dealt with insurance for retirees.

Due to the rising cost of healthcare in the United States over time, certain drastic measures were needed.  These reforms came in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was introduced in 2010. This act has been supported as well as opposed, and here, we take a look at both sides of the coin.

Impact on Senior Care

The main highlight of the new act is to introduce reforms, whereby unscrupulous insurance companies would be heavily penalized for their unfair practices. The indirect effect on Senior Care would be that it would become relatively more affordable to an increasing number of senior citizens.

Under the new act, it is now possible for the senior living industry in the US to provide better and cheaper services without any major changes to their basic infrastructure. The basic features of the new act ushers in benefits such as:

  • Wellness programs to avoid hospitalization
  • Recovery systems to prevent hospital re-admissions
  • Improved coordination of health care and senior care
  • Better customer services and resident experiences

One of the salient features of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the penalization aspect. If hospitals, insurance companies, and individuals do not follow the guidelines of the Act, they are liable to be penalized. This penalization of hospitals began in 2012 for hospitals that were found to be involved in avoidable re-admissions related to heart failure, pneumonia and heart attack. These types of penalties have made it easier (in theory) for seniors to get all the care they need from hospitals and coverage from their insurance companies.

The Elder Justice Act

Under the purview of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is another related act known as the Elder Justice Act which is an extension or amendment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This act stresses on the fact that “at least 10 percent of older Americans experience elder abuse”. It addresses the issues of elder abuse, and lays down the law for protection of senior citizens.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been summed up appropriately by the online Journal of Active Ageing (January/February 2013) as follows:

“In brief, the Affordable Care Act includes a federal mandate to reduce costs for Medicare, the US national health insurance program for adults ages 65 and older, by focusing on quality metrics and outcomes rather than fees for services.”



Arguments Against the New Legislation

To balance out the discussion, it would be only fair to have a look at the other side of the coin. There is a lobby that is against this new act. The major allegation is that individuals and small employers who do not buy the health insurance prescribed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be heavily penalized by the government and that costs will rise through mandated coverages.

The act has drawn a lot of flak from opposing parties. The fact that it was voted in favor with a difference of only 1 vote (5 ‘for’ and 4 ‘against’), is indicative that it was not an entirely unanimous decision by the Senate.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) stated that the new act would have a significant impact on the overall cost of health care in the US, and in the long run, the quality of health care would significantly deteriorate.

In the final analysis, we can say that this law is something that is here to stay for a considerable period of time. Although there are antagonists who have denounced this act at every opportunity, there are some positive aspects, so one can only hope that over time, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act reaps the benefits that it was originally intended for. There is no doubt that seniors get more out of their insurance plans, yet the costs of those plans will probably rise.

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