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Preserve the Pennsylvania Department of Aging: PDA Should be Excluded from Governor Wolf's Consolidation Plan

Aging and Disabilities

Preserve the Pennsylvania Department of Aging: PDA Should be Excluded from Governor Wolf's Consolidation Plan

Date Posted: 
05/10/2017

Governor Wolf’s 2017-18 fiscal year budget proposes to consolidate the Departments of Aging (PDA), Human Services, Health, and Drug and Alcohol Programs into one large new agency which would be called the Department of Health and Human Services.  Including PDA in the proposed consolidation would result in the loss of a cabinet-level leader dedicated to aging issues.

PDA serves as a visible advocate for older Pennsylvanians and is the state unit on aging responsible for administering programs funded under the federal Older Americans Act of 1965 for the Commonwealth’s senior population.  The Department also administers, through a statewide network of local Area Agencies on Aging, programs for older adults including caregiver support, senior employment, senior centers, Lottery-funded home care, domiciliary care, health insurance counseling, nutritional programs, and Long Term Care Ombudsman and protective services.

PDA should be excluded from the consolidation plan so that older Pennsylvanians will continue to have a strong, independent and visible cabinet-level advocate

  • Including PDA in the consolidation will result in the loss of a cabinet level voice focused on the issues of older adults.  Instead, the top aging official would be a mid-level bureaucrat whose voice could get lost in a large agency.  PDA was created in 1978 after years of intensive grassroots lobbying led by older adults, who campaigned for a separate cabinet-level position because they felt that their voices and those of their advocates were unheard and their needs unmet.  PDA administers crucial programs for older adults, and must maintain its independence in order for aging issues to receive the attention that they deserve. Moving backwards and rolling PDA into a larger agency would cause a loss of focus on older Pennsylvanians’ needs.
  • Aging issues currently require more, not less, focus and attention from the Commonwealth.  Pennsylvania has 2.9 million residents who are 60 or older, the fourth highest percentage in the nation, as well as one of the largest proportions of residents who are 85 or older.  The aging of the Baby Boomer generation will result in rapid and continuing growth in the Commonwealth’s older adult population, and by 2020 one in four Pennsylvanians will be 60 or older. If PDA is included in the consolidation, seniors are at risk of their needs falling through the cracks.
  • State budget savings from the inclusion of the Department of Aging in the agency consolidation would be minimal, since its funding derives solely from federal and state Lottery dollars and not from the State General Fund.
  • Advocates for older adults are very concerned that the proposed consolidation will threaten the viability of Lottery-funded programs that older Pennsylvanians rely upon to avoid institutionalization by accelerating the practice of diverting Lottery funds to pay for Medicaid General Fund obligations.  Seniors who wish to remain in their homes are counting on PDA to retain this vital funding and protect it from diversion to other programs.
  • Placing PDA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program in the consolidated agency could create a conflict of interest in violation of federal law.  The new consolidated Department would be responsible for long term care licensing and enforcement, program provision and payment functions.  The ombudsman would be tasked with acting as an advocate for the rights of consumers with other offices within the consolidated agency, including regulatory offices that may not properly enforce licensing regulations or payment offices that incorrectly deny benefits.  Placing all of these functions within one agency has the potential to undermine the independence and effectiveness of the Long Term Care Ombudsman.  

Speak up to save the PA Department of Aging!

Contact your state Senator and Representative and tell them that the Department of Aging should not be included in the proposed consolidation.  You can find contact information at:  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/.

Call Governor Wolf at (717) 787-2500 with the same message.  You may also write to him at Office of the Governor, 508 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.

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