White House Conference on Aging Results

JUNE 5, 1995 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 48

The Fourth White House Conference on Aging met in Washington, D.C., the first week in May. After three intense days of discussion and speeches, 2225 delegates voted on over 100 resolutions. The five top priorities of the delegates were:

1. Keeping Social Security sound for now and for the future

2. Preserving the integrity of the Older Americans Act

3. Preserving the nature of Medicaid

4. Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act

5. Increasing funding for Alzheimer research

Past White House Conferences on Aging (held in 1961, 1971 and 1981) are generally credited with providing the impetus for major new programs like Medicare, the Older Americans Act and Medicaid. This session was notable for a very different focus: how to prevent wholesale cuts in existing government programs.

Even as WHCoA delegates met and discussed the need for continued viability of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Congress was beginning early discussion of major cuts in the Medicare budget. One number frequently heard as a target for Medicare cuts (actually, reductions in projected growth rates) was $250 million. The coincidence that this was almost the exact cost of a tax cut also being promoted by Congressional Republicans made for some fireworks at the Conference.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore (as well as other Administration figures and leading Democrats), told cheering delegates that Republicans sought to take money from Medicare to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. Unfortunately, no major Republic figures appeared to explain their position or respond to the Administration’s broadsides.

But What Does it Mean?

For better or worse, the Fourth WHCoA was not a bipartisan, problem-solving endeavor. A truly representative group of seniors and advocates made an impassioned pitch for retention of existing programs, but no one provided alternative approaches or thoughtful analysis of the real problems facing seniors, the government and the country. The only clear message of the Fourth WHCoA was “save our programs–look somewhere else for cuts.”

Questions and Answers

Q: “Is it necessary to have two witnesses sign health care powers of attorney and Living Wills?”

A: No. A single witness (who may, but need not, be a notary) is sufficient. If there is only one witness, it may not be an heir or devisee (someone who will receive money upon the death of the signer). No similar restriction exists if there are two witnesses.

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