LIFTING UP OLDER VIRGINIANS
Before serving as Delegate, Sam spent a decade in health care management, including nursing home administration, and helped coordinate bringing the P.A.C.E. (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to the Roanoke Valley.
The public health crisis and economic crisis of the last year has had an acute effect on older Americans nationwide and Virginia is no exception. As we all know, the COVID-19 is more deadly for people ages 65 and older, with over one-third of COVID deaths occuring in nursing homes. Older Virginians have in many cases had to isolate more than the general population, resulting in an uptick of mental health problems, as well as contributing to the onset of mental health disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Economically, older workers have been targeted in layoffs and face age discrimination as they seek to re-enter the job market. According to AARP, “during the first six months of the pandemic, workers ages 55 and older were 17 percent more likely to lose their jobs than employees who were just a few years younger.”
Older Virginians are also facing problems that began well before the pandemic. About 23 percent of Virginia residents stopped taking a prescribed medication because of cost in 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, the prices of some name brand drugs to treat cancer, diabetes and heart disease climbed steeply, nearly doubling in some cases.
HOW TO DISCUSS
The challenges older Virginians face today are also the challenges all of us, regardless of age, will be facing unless we take action now.
The health and mental health effects of stress and isolation brought on by COVID are being most felt by older Virginians.
No one should have to skip their medication because they can’t afford it just so pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical middlemen can continue making outrageous profits.
As our population continues to grow older, we can both meet the demand for caregivers and create much-needed jobs by preparing for a care work economy.
LOWER DRUG PRICES
1. Create A Drug Price Affordability Board. The rising cost of prescriptions is a crisis, and we need regulators in Richmond whose full-time job is to ensure Virginians and the Commonwealth are not being ripped off. The drug price affordability board will review the cost of drugs purchased by the state and take action when prices increase, including asking for justification and setting price caps.
2. Hold the Middlemen Accountable. Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) act as middlemen between insurers and pharmacies, and often favor high-cost drugs even when cheaper alternatives are available. To crack down on this predatory practice, we must pass legislation that requires health insurers to disclose rebates received from manufacturers and to report PBMs they've been in contact with, and to pass savings on to consumers by lowering premiums.
3. Lower Prescription Costs Through Importation. Colorado, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Vermont have enacted measures to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, where the cost of the exact same drugs is often cheaper than in the United States because the Canadian government negotiates directly with drugmakers. Virginia should follow in the footsteps of those states and explore importation to lower drug prices to the commonwealth.
MEET THE GROWING NEED FOR CAREGIVERS
1. Expand The Caregiving Workforce to Meet Demand. As Virginia’s population becomes older, we are facing a shortage of caregivers in many parts of our state. Sam’s budget amendment to bring UVA’s Family Nurse Practitioner program to Wise, VA recently passed in the General Assembly. But more needs to be done to meet this growing need.
2. Create a Caregiver Tax Credit. Caregiving by older adults, such as taking care of grandchildren, as well as caregiving for older adults, often by their children, is currently undervalued and entirely unpaid. As first proposed in our Marshall Plan for Moms, Sam would create a caregiver tax credit in Virginia to support this valuable labor.
INDEPENDENCE AND FINANCIAL SECURITY
1. Build an Age-friendly Commonwealth. By 2030, one of every five people in the U.S. will be 65 or older. We need to create a Commission on Age-Friendly Communities to ensure Virginia creates a Commonwealth that addresses AARP’s eight domains of livability. These domains include outdoor spaces, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civic engagement, communication and information, community and health services. The quality of these eight domains directly impact the wellbeing of our older Virginians.
2. Build Infrastructure for Aging Population. We must do everything we can to both allow people to retire with dignity, while also preparing for an aging workforce. We need to develop infrastructure for aging populations to allow our parents and grandparents to remain at home instead of being forced to move to senior centers. Before Sam ran for office, he worked to bring the PACE program to Roanoke to help seniors live independently in their homes, while receiving the care they need. In this pandemic, programs like PACE have become more valuable than ever. We need to think forward and long-term, and that means significantly increasing the funding for PACE and programs that allow older Virginians to stay at home.
3. Utility Shutoff Protections. Economically struggling older adults are more likely to experience utility shut-offs, and the consequences are more likely to be life-threatening. Unlike many other states, Virginia lacks any protections for older adults from utility shut-offs. Utility companies should have to receive approval from the Commonwealth for utility shutoffs where any resident is 62 or older.
4. People’s Platform Policy — Prohibit Wage History Discrimination. Prohibits prospective employers from requiring that a prospective employee provide or disclose the prospective employee's wage or salary history to prevent age discrimination in the hiring process. (Deb, Charlottesville)