Aging Reform: Super Sized to Bite Sized

Sometimes, super sizing your meal is just too much.

The same could be said for a state senator’s bill on aging reform, which was deemed “too far reaching” in its lengthy list of recommendations when it was first introduced – and defeated– last year by the Senate Health Committee.

Yesterday, a lighter-weight version of SB 547 bill was unanimously approved by the same committee.

When bill sponsor Sen. Carol Liu released the report A Shattered System: Reforming Long-Term Care in California last year, it heavily criticized California’s system of long-term supports and services for older adults.

Two of the report’s most critical recommendations included the creation of a state “aging czar” along with a new Department of Community Living, which would have combined all of the state areas that touch on aging – 112 programs within 20 different agencies – under a single roof.

The revised bill is more bite-sized.

“It has been substantially amended and reduced in scope,” Liu said yesterday.

But has the “bite” been taken out?

Instead of a separate aging czar, the new bill gives that role to the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) – currently Diana Dooley, with a background in children’s services.

Besides aging, other departments within HHS include rehabilitation, children’s services, medical services, managed health, medical insurance, public health, social services, state hospitals and others.

The proposed Department of Community Living has been replaced by a coordinating council.

Since the release last year of Liu’s report the senator and her staff have faced an uphill battle to gain support for the recommended changes.

Aging experts around the state suggest that the current system is untenable, saying self-interest, turf wars and a lack of vision are responsible for the failure.

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