Clinton Signs Improved Older Americans Act to Provide Expanded Senior Assistance
President Clinton on Nov. 13 signed a bill to renew and expand the Older Americans Act (S 1536), the measure that provides senior assistance programs such as job training, pension counseling, Meals-on-Wheels service and legal advising, the AP/Nando Times reports. Although the original law authorizing these programs expired in 1995, the programs continued to receive funding through the federal budget. The measure signed by Clinton also creates a new $125 million family caregiver program to counsel and train families who care for elderly relatives. Clinton said, "Enactment of this legislation extending and improving the Older Americans Act and establishing the new National Family Caregiver Support Programs reflects our continued commitment to our older population and represents a victory for all Americans" (AP/Nando Times, 11/13). The Senate passed the legislation by a 94-0 margin last month (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/27). While the Older Americans Act provides federally funded assistance programs for Alzheimer's patients over age 60, the Alzheimer's Association contends that "more needs to be done" for younger patients, the Seattle Times reports. The organization estimates that between 5% and 10% of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or about 200,000 to 400,000 patients, are part of the early-onset population. In addition, the Seattle Times notes that with improved techniques for diagnosing Alzheimer's, the early-onset numbers are "only likely to grow," and many of those patients also will need federal aid. By 2050, an estimated 14 million Americans will have the disease. Kara Albisu of the Alzheimer's Association said, "We're really just getting to understand what the issues are for [early-onset patients] and their families" (Rudavsky, Seattle Times, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.