The Older Americans Act
The Older Americans Act, passed in 1965 and reauthorized in 2016, is a core piece of federal legislation that provides the framework for the network of Area Agencies on Aging around the country and provides funding for key supportive services.
Through its various titles, the Older Americans Act establishes the Area Agencies on Aging and funds the following:
- The Eldercare Locator
- Supportive home and community-based services, including some of the following:
- Attendant Care (bathing, dressing, and more)
- Legal services
- Information and referral
- Provides grants for respite care, support groups, training, and assistance for family caregivers
- Supports the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) through the Department of Labor
- Provides greater supports for the Native American, Native Alaskan, and Hawaiian aging programs due to the greater economic and social disparities experienced by those communities
- Establishes the Long-Term Care Ombudsman to prevent elder abuse
Pima Council on Aging is one of eight Area Agencies on Aging in Arizona, and one of 622 nationwide. Under our federal charter, through the Older Americans Act, we are obligated to advocate for the needs and future well-being of older adults in Pima County.
Medicare began in 1966 under the Social Security Administration and is now operated through the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), at the federal level, to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system through payroll deductions and taxes.
Medicare is a complicated system that provides four categories of coverage called “Parts.” Medicare Part A covers hospital visits, skilled nursing, and hospice services. Medicare Part B covers outpatient services. Medicare Part C covers the Medicare Advantage Plans, which is supplemental Medicare insurance you can buy to cover more than what traditional Medicare offers. Finally, Medicare Part D covers prescription drug plans.
At PCOA, we provide unbiased Medicare Counseling through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is federally funded and allows us to give free two-hour presentations followed by a one-hour Q&A and individual Medicare counseling appointments. Since the system is a complex one, it can be difficult to manage or decide what Medicare coverage you will need or want. SHIP allows people to get personalized help to understand individual Medicare coverage and to work with Medicare to get the lowest prices for participants.
As the SHIP for Pima County, we see firsthand how Medicare changes the lives of older adults and their families. That is why we advocate for funding for programs like SHIP and the Senior Medicare Patrol – a program designed to reduce Medicare fraud and abuse – at the federal level.
Medicaid was authorized by the Social Security Act of 1965 and is now operated, at the federal level, out of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicaid provides low-income individuals with health insurance that covers children, pregnant women, adults without children, older adults, and those with disabilities.
In Arizona Medicaid is known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and has multiple programs to address the needs of low-income Arizonans. For older adults AHCCCS has the Arizona Long-Term Care System (ALTCS), which pays for long-term care for those in need.
Since many older adults are living longer and having to stretch retirement savings, ALTCS becomes critical for paying for long-term care or in-home services. At PCOA we monitor changes in funding and policy at both the state and federal levels, and advocate appropriately to maintain critical benefits for older adults.
Social Security was passed in 1935 in the heat of the Great Depression to reduce poverty among older adults. Currently, those who pay into the Federal Insurance Contribution Act payroll deduction (FICA) are eligible for Social Security when they retire. If you are or were self-employed, if you pay into the Self Employed Contributions Act (SECA) throughout your career you are also eligible to receive Social Security when you retire. For the most part, everyone who is a legal resident and works in the United States is eligible through their Social Security number to receive Social Security at retirement.
When people have discrepancies with Social Security, they can call their local Social Security office or the office of their member of Congress. Each member of Congress has Constituent Services staff who are dedicated to help resolve issues between constituents and the Social Security Administration.
As the aging advocate for Pima County, PCOA actively advocates for sustained funding for the Social Security Administration and continues to look into the financial sustainability of the program.
For more information on PCOA’s advocacy program and how you can become an aging advocate, call 520-305-3415 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.