I've spent my entire career fighting for New Mexico's seniors. As the Director of the New Mexico State Agency on Aging and then as Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services, I worked to protect seniors from scam artists, helped seniors remain in their homes, and addressed poor quality care in nursing homes, even going undercover to investigate reports of patient abuse and neglect. I also expanded critical services for seniors and fought for new programs to address end-of-life care issues and provide legal services to seniors throughout New Mexico. As a member of Congress, I’ve worked to preserve and strengthen federal programs that support seniors’ health and financial well-being and to provide additional support for seniors who need long-term supports and services and their caregivers.
I know how many of New Mexico’s seniors rely on Social Security to make ends meet. In fact, New Mexicans face unique retirement challenges. We are ranked 42nd in median household income in the United States and nearly two-thirds of New Mexicans do not have enough rainy day savings for a three-month emergency fund. Without alternative sources of income, many seniors rely on Social Security alone.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration does not accurately calculate cost-of-living (COLA) increases for Social Security recipients. As a result, SSA’s COLA has been woefully inadequate year after year. I don’t know one older American whose medicine, prescription drugs, housing, or food costs haven’t increased. That is why I have cosponsored legislation to ensure SSA calculates its COLA based on the actual expenses that older Americans face.
Medicare is critically important to seniors’ economic security, providing health coverage to almost 400,000 elderly and disabled New Mexicans. As a program of guaranteed benefits, Medicare ensures that seniors can access quality health care services despite rising medical and pharmaceutical costs. I strongly oppose Republican efforts to end Medicare’s guaranteed benefits and will continue fighting attempts to increase cost-sharing for seniors who can’t afford it, raise the eligibility age for Medicare, or privatize the program.
In fact, as a member of the Budget Committee, I’ve led the fight against the Budget Chairmen Ryan and Price Medicare cuts, sponsoring amendments that would prevent Republicans from turning Medicare into a voucher program. I’ve also worked hard to protect seniors from unfair Medicare premium hikes. I cosponsored the Medicare Premium Fairness Act (H.R. 3696) to prevent a spike in premiums and deductibles for millions of beneficiaries in 2015, and will continue to monitor Medicare premiums and deductibles to ensure that seniors are not burdened by high medical costs.
As a nation, we have a duty to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries, who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to this program, are well cared for and supported. I know what Medicare means to New Mexico’s seniors, and I will never stop fighting for them.
Watch me introduce my Medicare amendment to the Republican budget
By 2030, there will be more than 72 million older Americans, making up 19% of the total population. As they age, many of these seniors will require long-term supports and services, placing a huge burden on a fragmented system that is already struggling to provide and finance care for current seniors and individuals with disabilities who want to remain independent and receive services in their homes and communities.
Currently, the vast majority of care is provided by family caregivers; more than 40 million Americans provide more than $470 billion in care to seniors and adults with disabilities every year. These caregivers fill a critical void, often because the lack of access to affordable services gives them no other choice. They pitch in to fill gaps where they can, keeping their loved ones out of high-cost nursing homes. These family caregivers face a broad array of challenges and often need outside support to ensure that they can live healthy, productive lives and continue caring for their loved ones.
As the former New Mexico Secretary of Aging and Long-Term Services and a caregiver for my mother, I know these challenges well. As a member of Congress, I’ve made supporting our family caregivers a top priority.
Read my Op-ed published in The Hill on caregiving.
The National Care Corps Act
As our population continues to age, demand for caregivers is projected to grow substantially, and there simply aren’t enough family caregivers to meet the growing need. In 2010, there were seven potential caregivers for every person over the age of 80. By 2030, that ratio is projected to drop by almost half, to 4:1. In the paid workforce, 4 million direct care workers provide long term supports and services to individuals in need already. But paid caregiving demand is projected to grow as well and the U.S. will need to add at least 1 million more direct care workers over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, our economy continues to feel the effects of the Great Recession. Many young people are unemployed or underemployed, while other workers are retraining for more in-demand fields.
These are national challenges that require a national solution and that is why I introduced the National Care Corps Act.
National Care Corps Act
Creates a national Care Corps, housed within the Administration for Community Living at the Department of Health and Human Services
Places Corps volunteers in communities where they will provide services that help seniors and individuals with disabilities remain independent and in their homes
Provides volunteers with health insurance and other benefits during their time of service, along with an educational award that can be used to pay education costs or loans
Helps build the caregiving and health care work force needed to meet the growing demand for services
Creates an opportunity for intergenerational relationships
Click here for printable information on the National Care Corps Act (one pager)
Watch me introduce the National Care Corps Act on the House floor (Video of Michelle’s floor speech)
Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus
In March 2015, I co-founded the bipartisan, bicameral Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus with Rep. Dianne Black and Sens. Michael Bennet and Kelly Ayotte. The caucus works to educate Members of Congress about caregiving issues, create an environment conducive to reaching bipartisan solutions, and build a sense of urgency to act. The Caucus already has dozens of members in both the House and the Senate and continues to grow.
So far, the Caucus has hosted several briefings for congressional members and staff to learn more about caregiving. The Caucus also advocates for funding for federal programs that support caregivers and works to build support for the RAISE Family Caregivers Act.
As a Caucus leader, I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure that family caregivers have the support they need to care for our loved ones.