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HHS Convenes Choices For Independence:
A National Leadership Summit

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today called on aging policy leaders to be active participants in federal, state, and local efforts to transform long term care.

Speaking before nearly 1,300 representatives of aging, health and long-term care agencies and organizations attending the "Choices for
Independence: A National Leadership Summit," Secretary Leavitt was joined by HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina G. Carbonell and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Acting Administrator Leslie Norwalk in calling on these representatives to work together to help older Americans and their families access the tools they need to make informed decisions about and plan ahead for their health and long term care.

Secretary Leavitt also outlined federal initiatives underway to help older Americans stay healthy by reducing their risk of disease, disability and injury, and to assist moderate and low-income individuals who are at risk of nursing home placement to remain at home.

The summit is the Administration on Aging's (AoA) first opportunity to publicly showcase the reauthorized Older Americans Act (OAA) since the legislation was signed by President Bush on Oct. 17, 2006. Key provisions of the new OAA contain principles from the Administration's Choices for Independence Initiative, which advance the President's New Freedom Initiative and support HHS Secretary Leavitt's priorities of prevention and value-driven health care.

The new OAA will modernize community-based long term care systems by empowering consumers to make informed decisions about their care options, give people greater control over the types of services they receive, create more opportunities for high-risk individuals to avoid institutional care, and enable more seniors to live healthy lives in their communities. Changes in the OAA support and complement ongoing changes in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to provide increased options for and greater integration of home and community-based care and services for older and disabled individuals and to help rebalance health and long term care for the 21st Century.

The two-day summit will spotlight best practices, partnerships and initiatives at the state, tribal and community level as well as within private foundations, and provide opportunities for increased coordination and collaboration. The summit will also include a special post-summit session on the reauthorized OAA with a focus on describing the opportunities it presents for the national aging services network to help shape the future of long-term care in the United States.