Policy Developments

Seniors Show Strong Support for Increases to SSI/SSP Payments

Seniors from around California descended upon the Capitol last week in a strong show of support for increases to SSI/SSP payments.  Dozens of seniors and stakeholders gave testimony at the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services regarding the continuing impacts of cuts enacted in 2009 and encouraged lawmakers to use this year’s budget surplus to restore those cuts. Immediately following the hearing, the advocates met with Assemblymembers Tony Thurmond and Rob Bonta, and Senator Loni Hancock to share their personal stories and the critical role of SSI/SSP in their daily lives.

At stake in this budget year is the reinstatement of the state’s annual Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA), which was eliminated in 2009, and an increase in the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) to bring the total SSI/SSP benefit from 90% of the federal poverty level ($881/month for an individual) to above 100% of the federal poverty level ($980/month for an individual). Governor Brown, however, has proposed to use funds from this year’s budget surplus to add additional money to California’s “rainy day” fund; while advocates claim that it is already “raining” on seniors who depend on SSI/SSP and that surpluses should be used to restore the cuts made in the deficit years.

BACKGROUND: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal program designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income meet their basic needs. The state funded portion of this program is called the State Supplemental Payment (SSP). In January 2009 the SSI/SSP grant of $907 a month was worth 100.5 percent of the federal poverty level for a single individual. Since then SSP grants were repeatedly cut and no cost of living adjustments (COLA) were provided. Individual SSI/SSP grants are now worth just 90.7 percent of the federal poverty level, but if these cuts had not occurred, would be worth 106.7 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the California Budget Project. These cuts have pushed more than 1 million blind, aged and disabled Californians below the federal poverty level. This is a significant reason why we have seen our poverty rate skyrocket to the highest in the nation according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.

EBHO Asks Oaklanders to Speak Out

East Bay Housing Organizations is asking for help to build inclusive communities in Oakland. Here’s what you can do…

Can you attend the Community and Economic Development Committee
at 1 PM on Tuesday January 26th?

Hear the City Administration’s staff report on the impact fee and let Oakland elected leaders know that we need a strong housing fee now, and before it’s too late. If you are willing to speak, contact Matt@ebho.org and sign up here.

Speak Out for a Housing Fee Now in Oakland!
Tuesday, January 26th, 2015
1 PM to 4 PM
Community and Economic Development Committee
Oakland City Hall

 

Can you call or email your Council Person and Council Member At-Large Rebecca Kaplan? Sample email and council person contact information below:
Find out who you councilmember is here! And remember, Councilmember Kaplan is everyone’s councilmember. 

Sample Email to your Councilperson and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan:

Dear Councilmember X,

We are in a housing crisis of epic proportions, and Oakland cannot wait any longer to invest in affordable homes. In order to Oakland to benefit from the current wave of new development, the City needs a strong housing impact fee that starts at $20,000 and begins no later than July 2016. 

A strong housing impact fee will help Oakland grow inclusively and will not kill development. Of the 7,400 market homes that are in the active Oakland development pipeline, we know that over 4,100 of them will not be touched by the impact fee because they already have building permits or because they are legally exempt due to vested development rights. This makes it clear that the impact fee will not KILL development, while helping to build much-needed affordable homes. 

Additionally, there should not be a reduced impact fee for areas that have already received developer incentives. For example, there are market-rate development incentives in the Specific Plans such as Coliseum Area and West Oakland, as well as the BRT International Avenue Corridor. Will you ensure additional incentives for market-rate development (such as a reduced impact fee) only apply to areas that don’t already have developer incentives, and will you advocate for Zone 3 to be more appropriately redrawn to begin between High Street and the San Leandro Border and between 580 and 880?

We applaud Councilmember Kaplan for taking a stand and calling for a $25,000 housing impact fee. Will you join her in this call?

While a housing impact fee is not the silver bullet, it will help build an additional 400 to 600 new affordable homes over the next 5 years, and is a critical part of the solution.

Thanks for your time,
[Your name]

Councilmember Contact information:

District 1 – Councilmember Dan Kalb
Phone: (510) 238-7001
Email: dkalb@oaklandnet.com

District 2 – Councilmember Abel Guillen
Ph: (510) 238-7002
Email: aguillen@oaklandnet.com

District 3 – Councilmember Lynette McElhaney
Ph: (510) 238-7003
E-Mail: lmcelhaney@oaklandnet

District 4 – Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington
Ph: (510) 238-7004
Email: acampbellwashington@oaklandnet.com

District 5 – Councilmember Noel Gallo
Ph: (510) 238-7005
Email: ngallo@oaklandnet.com

District 6 – Councilmember Desley Brooks
Ph: (510) 238-7006 (office)
Email: dbrooks@oaklandnet.com

District 7 – Councilmember Larry Reid
Ph: (510) 238-7007
E-mail: lreid@oaklandnet.com

Councilmember – At-Large Rebecca Kaplan
Be sure to thank her for calling to set the impact fee at $25,000!
Ph: (510) 238-7008
E-mail: rkaplan@oaklandnet.com

Home-Bound Oakland Seniors Facing Crisis

June 17, 2015 – Sudden and significant growth in the number of Oakland seniors needing meals on wheels is putting these frail home-bound seniors’ lives at risk.

Oakland’s meals on wheels program is provided by SOS Meals On Wheels. SOS is a nonprofit that has been providing meals on wheels services in the county for 49 years, and in July 2014 began providing full service meals on wheels for Oakland seniors under contract with the Alameda County Area Agency on Aging. The contract funds a set number of meals, and the reimbursement does not cover the full cost of the service. Like all meals on wheels providers, SOS makes up the gap by maximizing the use of volunteers, by requesting a per-meal donation from recipients, and through fundraising.

However, the number of Oakland seniors requesting and qualifying for meals on wheels has grown significantly in the last nine months. SOS’s case load has grown from 650 to 1200. SOS cannot address this huge increase alone; even county augmentation funding falls short of addressing the crisis. Seniors in need are being waitlisted.

Concerned CBOs have asked the City to provide funding to mitigate this emergency. Oakland City Council has responded to advocate’s requests with a $50,000 one-time-only allocation in their proposed budget. The City hasn’t funded senior serving CBOs since it eliminated its Senior Set-aside grant program in 2009. The allocation is a step in the right direction, but the city needs to do more.

What you can do: People who care about Oakland seniors have an opportunity to voice their support for more funding. Attend the City Council Budget Hearing on Monday June 22 at 5:00pm at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and speak during public comment.

Return to the Senior Services in Alameda County page by clicking here.

CCI Launch in Alameda County Postponed to July 2015

August 15, 2014 – Last week, California’s Department of Health Care Services announced they will postpone the Alameda County and Orange County launch of the Coordinated Care Initiative until July 2015.

The Alameda County launch has been postponed half-a-dozen times since we received CCI and Duals Demonstration status in 2012. This final postponement, however, is the last, at least for the Duals Demonstration (now known as Cal MediConnect). After July 2015 the demonstration window closes and no new counties can enter until, presumably, California takes the next step, post-demonstration, in the planned CCI roll-out.

The state cited “plan readiness” (or lack thereof) as the reason for postponing the launch in both counties. In Alameda County, Alameda Alliance has been under state conservatorship since May, an action the state Department of Managed Care Services took citing Alliance’s low cash reserves and a claims backlog that was the consequence of a failed transition to a new IT system. While we haven’t seen the conservator’s 90 day report, we can presume that the schedule for Alliance’s return to fiscal stability is the reason for the state’s decision about plan readiness.

The Alliance’s conservatorship status was confirmed by a superior court judge on July 25 after hearing arguments against the takeover from the Alliance’s Board of Governors. The judge put a time constraint on the conservatorship: one year starting from the takeover date of May 5, 2014. It is the sincere hope of the aging services community that the Alliance will be returned to local control with its collaborative spirit and commitment to the community intact.

One question that the CCI postponement has left open is the status of Alliance’s Complete Care (its Special Needs Plan for Duals, or D-SNP). The Alliance had planned to close Complete Care and “cross-walk” its members into the new Cal MediConnect plan in January, and federal permission to do so is already in the works. With the announcement of the list of 2015 D-SNPs and other Medicare Plans just around the corner, a back-up plan will have to be adopted soon.

Timing, if the launch goes forward: A July launch date means that the first consumers to be subject to passive enrollment will receive letters in April, and packets with plan options and enrollment information in May.

Look for new training announcements and other resources from SSC in the first quarter of 2015. In the meantime, the new CCI Technical Advisor for Alameda County, Katharine Hsiao, and her colleague from Harbage Consulting, Shelly Grimaldi, will be reaching out to providers, CBOs and other community groups to ensure that these trusted sources are equipped to inform and assist seniors and people with disabilities, both this Fall and into 2015. If you haven’t heard from them, contact Shelly at shelly@harbageconsulting.com.

For those who want to track CCI implementation already underway in six CCI counties, NSCLC offers a biweekly CCI Advocates Alert (to subscribe click here).

 

To return to the CCI Policy Developments page, click here.

Alameda County Takes Steps to Stabilize Senior Services

July 11, 2014 – On June 27, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved its 2014/15 Budget, including a directive to Social Services Agency Director Lori Cox and Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe to earmark emergency funding for senior services and to develop an integrated plan for providing long term, health and supportive services to seniors in Alameda County. Click here to read the memo that is now part of the County Budget.

The recommendation was advanced by Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan. Please take time to thank them, and to thank your own Supervisor for supporting the recommendation. Click here to go to SSC’s advocacy resources page for Supervisors’ contact information.

Will the funding be adequate? The recommendation does not state a dollar amount or a percentage increase. Instead, it directs the two Agency Directors to bring to the July 28, 2014 Social Services Committee Meeting “a strategy to earmark one-time only emergency stabilization funds” for community-based organizations that contract with the Area Agency on Aging for Older Americans Act and Senior Injury Prevention services.

These CBOs have been struggling to provide services to more seniors with increasingly complex needs in spite of historically inadequate funding. We hope that with oversight of the Board of Supervisors via the Committee and continued engagement on the part of stakeholders, the stabilization funding will make a meaningful difference for these resource-strapped programs.

Will a comprehensive plan deliver resources and build a more effective system? At the June 2013 hearing on the status of seniors, SSC urged the county to move forward to develop a comprehensive plan that will address its rapidly aging population and the increasing demand for senior services that are already straining the healthcare and aging services network. The new budget recommendation directs Social Services and Health Care Services Agencies to collaborate on an “integrated long term sustainable plan of service delivery to older adults” and bring that plan to a joint meeting of the health and social service committees in fiscal 14/15. If both agencies truly collaborate, avoid falling back into their silos, and tap into the knowledge of the aging services community, then we stand a chance of developing a plan that accurately identifies the needs, innovates the service network, and engages new financing strategies.

Last but not least…Also included in the Social Services Agency Budget for the new fiscal year is approximately $140,000 to backfill this year’s federal sequestration cuts. This funding means that units of service won’t be lost for Older Americans Act programs, but CBOs will face another year of complicated budget reports resulting from the staggered funding process.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in communicating the urgent need for County action to Supervisors and Agency leadership. We were heard!

“New Status Quo” Thinking Puts Safety Net in Grave Danger

April 29, 2014 – Now that the years of state budget cuts to aging services are over, a strange phenomenon is setting in. Regardless that the reduced service capacity is woefully inadequate to meet current need, perform the mission, or prepare for future population growth; the “new status quo” has taken root in the minds of legislators and other policy makers.

Worrying examples include Medi-Cal rates for CBAS and PACE, IHSS, Older Californians Act services, and MSSP. Today I’ll focus on MSSP, the Multipurpose Senior Services Program.

MSSP is an outstanding success at keeping frail older adults with multiple chronic conditions in their homes. It prevents costly acute and long-term institutionalization, thus saving the state an estimated $117 million annually in return for the investment of roughly $20.3 million in state general funds (this investment also leverages federal match, dollar for dollar).

So you would think the state would use this awesome tool to manage Medi-Cal’s highest risk population, especially since MSSP is a part of the Coordinated Care Initiative, right? Not unless the new status quo is challenged and funding is increased. This is because the total number of MSSP “slots” is set at 9,440 statewide, limiting the number of people who can be served at any point in time. It doesn’t matter if more eligible people urgently need MSSP’s intervention, or if a CCI Managed Care Plan determines that a patient needs MSSP. The number of slots is set. The governor proposes this status quo in his FY 2014-15 budget.

In Alameda County, we face a critical shortage of MSSP slots – only 380 slots between the two MSSP providers in Oakland and Fremont. Hundreds of eligible seniors wait, and often die or enter nursing homes while on the wait list.

This is unacceptable. Advocates are asking the state to invest an additional $5.1 million of state general fund dollars to MSSP’s budget in FY 2014-15. This investment would enable MSSP to serve 2,762 more frail seniors annually, and would add 100 slots in Alameda County. Not the capacity we need, but a start.

With a governor whose austere budget plan calls for few restorations, we face an uphill battle to challenge status quo thinking of legislators. But it is essential that we try.

Please join us in insisting that California build adequate capacity in the safety net of services to meet the needs of our growing senior population. Write to the Assembly and Senate budget committees today. Click here and here for sample letters.

 

Return to State Budget page.

Is Medi-Cal Coverage for Adult Day Health Care in our Future?

January 8, 2014 – The court settlement that preserved Medi-Cal coverage for Adult Day Health Care will expire on August 31, 2014. That settlement gave the benefit its new name – CBAS, for Community-Based Adult Services – and transitioned the benefit from Medi-Cal fee-for-service to a Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan benefit in Alameda and many other counties. The settlement thus gave CBAS the distinction of being the first LTSS to move into Medi-Cal Managed Care. It also bought time, enough to allow California’s Department of Health Care Services to change its opinion about eliminating the program.

In October 2013, DHCS acknowledged that “CBAS is a key component of LTSS under the Coordinated Care Initiative” and “an important Home and Community-Based Service that provides alternatives to institutional care.” More, DHCS and the California Department on Aging launched a CBAS Stakeholder Workgroup. Its purpose is to develop a future (post-settlement) direction for CBAS, and to prepare for amending the CBAS section of the federal 1115 Waiver (itself set to expire in August 2014).

This bodes well, as does the meaningful participation of an impressive and broad set of workgroup members. The Workgroup will meet three times (Jan. 9, Feb. 4 and March 6) before they must complete their deliverables in April. The door is open for the public and service providers to participate at the meetings (in person and by webinar), and to offer comments and recommendations in writing (by emailing CBAScda@aging.ca.gov) or by phone (916-419-7545) through April 2014.

To sign up to receive email notices, and to view meeting materials, go to http://www.aging.ca.gov/programsproviders/ADHC-CBAS/Stakeholder_Process/

 

Return to the CCI Policy Developments page.

Hello, is Anyone Listening? California Assembly’s Budget Blueprint Leaves Out Seniors!

January 8, 2014 – Have you ever felt ignored? In a proactive move, ahead of the Governor’s budget proposal scheduled for release this week, California’s Assembly Democrats recently released their 2014/15 Blueprint for a Responsible Budget (click here to check it out). The plan responds to the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommendations for keeping us on the path of fiscal stability now that we have a structurally balanced budget. It would build reserves and increase investments, and be smart about it. Unfortunately, the Blueprint makes no mention of seniors.

Over the past ten years, California has dismantled its safety net for seniors. While the population of seniors grew exponentially, state funding dropped by half (click here for the charts). State funding vanished for many programs, including cornerstones of the Older Californian’s Act. We are talking about services designed to help seniors successfully navigate the challenges of aging so that they can maintain a steady state. Food, caregiver respite, day care, foster grandparents, senior companion, case management, senior employment…the list of cuts and eliminations is stunningly long (click here to see it). Some programs are just barely holding on – at least in some counties – with local and federal funding. But nowhere is there capacity to serve the need.

Why is there no mention of restoring these services in any of the grand plans for California’s turn-around? It can’t be because they are too costly. Returning the Older Californian’s Act budget to its 2006 levels would only take $30 million, a small sum when we are looking at putting aside a $2 billion surplus for fiscal 2014/15. It can’t be because seniors don’t contribute to the Blueprint priorities of expanding opportunities for California’s families, investing in education, reducing poverty and investing in jobs…See foster grandparents, caregiver respite, day care and senior employment in the previous paragraph.

Certainly we’re in for a lively debate about how California can craft a final budget that reflects our priorities. Let’s just not forget that “our” priorities include those of seniors. I hope you will join me in attending state budget hearings and contacting your legislators to remind them.

Stay tuned.

Return to the State Budget page.

Policy Brief: UCLA Center for Health Policy Advocacy

July 2012 – Today, UCLA Center for Health Policy Advocacy released a Policy Brief: Nearly 4 Million Californians are Food Insecure. The report’s county-by-county data is available at California Food Policy Advocate’s web site.

While this report does not separate out seniors, we know from past UCLA studies that over 20% of Alameda County seniors were food insecure in 2007, before the Great Recession.

 

Return to the Food Insecurity page here.

Disability Rights California Court Motion

September 20, 2012  –  On September 15, Disability Rights California filed a court motion stating that California has violated the terms of the Settlement. The motion sets forth the problems experienced by class members throughout implementation of the settlement, and offers proposed solutions. Read the motion.

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