When the program chairs and staff of the 2005 Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging (ASA) and National Council on the Aging (NCOA) got together last year to think about the theme for our conference in Philadelphia, March 10-13, we sensed that change was as unpredictable as it was imminent. The presidential election was on the horizon and widespread discussion was pointing to changes in major entitlement programs that directly address older adults-Medicare, Medicaid and Social security. We knew that we needed a theme that would speak to the moment.
As it turns out, the theme we selected for our sixth Joint Conference, "The Changing Face of Aging," was right on target. With the controversial Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 moving toward full implementation next year, the United States also faces a rapidly sharpening debate over Social security. With budget issues continuing to dominate domestic public policy discussion at the state and national levels, new attempts to cut costs in Medicaid-whose costs now exceed those of Medicare and constitute the largest single item on many state budgets-are moving to front and center.
In addition, the 2005 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) will take place in Washington, D.C., in October. A number of sessions at our Joint Conference focused on critical concerns in aging will be designated as WHCOA events and will forward recommendations to the White House Conference. One Critical Issues in Aging session (see below) will be designated as a solutions forum with representatives of the WHCOA public policy committee present.
Public policy issues often seem beyond one's control, yet they dramatically change the way the field of aging does business, how it provides care and, indeed, who is in the profession called the field of aging. If there were ever a time for professionals to engage in a discussion of where the field going, it is now.
The 2005 Joint Conference opens on Thursday, March 10 at 8 a.m. with a general session sponsored by AARP on a topic that could not be more timely: " Social Security: Challenge for the Generations." The debate over Social Security reform is quickly reaching a boiling point. Advocates for reducing benefits and creating private savings accounts have lined up in opposition to those who warn that tampering with the system will unravel the social compact between the generations that is the basis of the program. This session will tackle the questions "Is Social Security in crisis?" and "What needs to be done to 'save' it?"
On the second day of the conference, Friday, March 11, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina Carbonell will unveil her plans for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, will talk about how the reauthorization plan complements larger federal policy directions in health and long-term care, including Medicaid and Medicare policy.
Saturday morning, March 12, offers a number of other Critical Issue in Aging sessions. The first 2005 WHCOA Solutions Forum will focus on one of six main agenda items of the WHCOA: "Older Consumers 2005-2015-Challenges and Opportunities for the Marketplace." Participants will present ideas about and approaches to the myriad marketplace issues for older consumers of the future. Included will be new product development and promotion, the increased role of technology and new ways to market to aging consumers. Other Critical Issues in Aging sessions include:
"The Medicare Modernization Act and Medicare Part D: What It Means for the Aging Network"
The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) ushered in the most sweeping changes to Medicare since its inception. In January 2006, Medicare Part D, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to purchase prescription drug coverage, takes effect. The new prescription drug benefit offers substantial subsidies for people with lower incomes and assets. …