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Increased funding for public health response and Medicare coverage of vaccines will save lives

Arlington, VA (March 3, 2020) – The following is a statement from James Firman, President and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

“On behalf of millions of vulnerable older adults, NCOA strongly urges Congress to take immediate steps to provide an appropriate level of funding for a strong, comprehensive public health campaign to fight the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This campaign should include messaging about prevention strategies that reaches all populations, in both community and institutional settings. Equally important is ensuring that diagnostic tests, vaccines when available, and treatments to address symptoms for those who become ill, be accessible and affordable to all populations.

“NCOA believes that a fully funded public health response that includes providing Medicare coverage of potential vaccines and other treatment options will save lives. We urge Congress to significantly increase by several magnitudes the White House’s current $2.5 billion budget to combat this disease.

“Resources are needed to support state and local health departments as they mount strategies to address local need, including partnering with their aging services providers and health care entities to meet the unique needs of the older adult population. NCOA also supports additional funding for Medicare to cover not just any potential vaccines but to provide and expand culturally competent telehealth services to communities and patients. This would increase access to life-saving screening and treatment by extending the reach of health care providers, reduce the risk of additional exposure, and improve the sharing of clinical data. These are all desirable public health outcomes when dealing with a potential epidemic.

“Due to weakened immune systems and the presence of chronic conditions, older adults are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. The latest research found the median age of those infected to be 59. In the United States, the first reported virus-related fatalities were Americans over age 50, and the data available from China and other countries mirrors those results. NCOA believes more significant investment now will save the lives of our parents, grandparents, older adult relatives, and neighbors and help contain the spread of this deadly virus in our communities. NCOA stands ready to assist in outreach and education efforts pertaining older adults. We urge Congress to lead on this issue.”

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.