As 2019 gets underway in full force, legislatures in states across the nation are convening -- some for a few weeks, others for another year-round session. How can we compete for and win the attention of state legislators and draw their focus to aging, disability, and long-term services and supports (LTSS) issues? The LTSS Scorecard is the best tool we have. Every advocate should become familiar with it, particularly with where their state stands compared to others, and visit their state capitol – early and often - with the Scorecard in hand.
At LeadingAge, our policy setting process begins with Town Hall Conversations in every state. Members – nearly 6,000 providers of aging services, across the continuum of care -- gather and tell us what keeps them up at night, how policy affects those concerns, and their ideas for solutions. Because our members are aging services providers, challenges with the federal-state Medicaid program come up in every Town Hall. Although we are out there to talk about federal policy, our members are just as hungry for information they can bring to their state elected and government officials about how they look compared to other states in terms of access, quality, financing – the important dimensions of long-term services and supports. And, of course, Federal and state policy flirt with each other as they intersect.
Sometimes we hear about a really exciting development. For instance, this year the Washington State legislature is considering the Long-Term Care Trust Act, which, if enacted, would establish a public LTSS benefit. Why is it not surprising to look at the 2017 Scorecard and note that Washington ranked number 1 overall? I’m happy to report that when I visited Washington, advocates were well aware of where they stand.
A wise Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation who I worked for a few years ago in the US Department of Health and Human Services talked about being on the Secretary’s senior leadership team and participating in political decision-making. She said that she was able to stand out in the conversation by bringing a number to the table.
I am looking forward to the 2020 Scorecard which will be even more fine-tuned on how LTSS users really live their lives as well as deliver more numbers we can all bring to the table. And, it will be more valuable to advocates on the ground, with its focus on quality of care.
It is time to rally Americans to talk about aging and LTSS. If we start by putting the scorecard into the toolbox of every advocate, consumer, provider, family member and other grassroots stakeholders, can we set our sights on one or more Presidential candidates taking on aging and LTSS as a campaign issue?
Let’s start with all of us – tuck the scorecard in your back pocket and make your voice heard!
Ruth Katz is the senior vice president for policy at LeadingAge. Her areas of expertise include federal, state and private long-term services and supports, disability and mental health programs.