Health and long-term care is a multi-billion dollar system for Federations and their partners

Gill Green
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For close to a century the Jewish health services industry has evolved to meet local community needs, and today it is a multi-billion dollar system. Involving 100 nursing homes, 125 Jewish family service agencies and myriad other programs, it is one of the largest social service networks on the continent.

To ensure that Jewish health and human service agencies across the country remain at the forefront of delivery of care to acute populations, Jewish Federations have launched a new groundbreaking Strategic Health Resource Center. The new Center will identify industry trends, provide analysis and continue to be among the lead advocates for health care issues in government.

According to a recent Pew Center study, backed up by U.S. census results, on average, Jewish adults are older than the population as a whole, and roughly half of Jewish adults (51%) are aged 50 and older. This means that Jews have the lowest rates of reproduction and, at the other end of the spectrum, are the most in need of a system that can provide long-term access to physical and mental health care and cater to the demands of an aging population.

At the forefront of delivering care

The new Center will serve as a resource for Jewish Federations partners by helping to identify national trends, best practices, and a comprehensive network for information and resource sharing. All this will ensure that Jewish health and human service agencies across the country remain at the forefront of delivering care to acute populations.

The initiative is an across-the-board collaboration. Federation partners such as the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation of Cleveland, the Michael Reese Health Trust of Chicago, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation of Pittsburgh, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Miami Jewish Health Systems and LifeBridge Health have pooled resources to establish the new Center, which will have a vital impact on Jewish communities throughout North America.

Jewish Federations support some of the largest networks of social service providers in the United States and we have a vibrant history of advocating for sustained funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, explains William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America. He adds that even though Federations raised $2.5 billion last year from private donors, its largest funding partners were federal, state and local government, which contributed $10 billion. This illustrates not only how evolved our social service network has become, but also the vital role the government plays in underwriting Jewish health and human service initiatives across the United States.

The new Strategic Health Resource Center was more than two years in the planning. Mr. Daroff says that it was created to add value to Federations and their partner agencies as they navigate the waters of our rapidly changing healthcare system. Though the Affordable Care Act is largely perceived as simply insuring millions of Americans who lacked health coverage, in truth, the law was transformative. It has far-reaching effects for Medicare, Medicaid and other vital programs.

Silver tsunami

The Strategic Health Resource Center brings together all the resources of Jewish Federations and their partner agencies to deal with the coming changes in the healthcare system, which Mitchell S. Balk, president of the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, describes as the silver tsunami, the aging of the Baby Boomers. As this approaches, he says, the demands on Medicaid and other public programs will grow exponentially.

I view the Center as our seat at the federal health policy table to address the health issues of the American Jewish community, Mr. Balk continues. Federations have proven to be effective coalition-builders, an important strategy for getting anything done in Washington. In the area of long-term care financing, for example, it created a bipartisan long-term care commission to advise the federal government on potential solutions to the impending crisis. The work is not always about funding; it is about keeping people healthy and able to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible given the challenges that accompany aging.

Neil M. Meltzer, president and chief executive officer of LifeBridge Health, a growing integrated health delivery system in the greater Baltimore area, agrees. LifeBridge Health realizes what is at stake given the demographics and challenges of being a non-profit provider, he notes, and we have invested a great deal of resources to ensure that our Jewishly-sponsored provider network is a beacon of progress, innovation and an overall true leader in delivering the finest care in the Greater Baltimore region to those who need it most.

Although LifeBridge and its healthcare entities have a distinctively Jewish mission, the great majority of patients they serve are not Jewish. We are providing a vital service to the community in this respect and showcasing that the Jewish people are not insular; we care deeply about helping those in our greater community, adds Mr. Meltzer.

In Pittsburgh, too, Jewish communal leaders understand what is at stake as a result of some of the profound health and long-term care issues the community is facing. Jeff Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, says that Pittsburgh itself has evolved into a leading provider of health services in North America, and the Federation, along with the citys Jewish Healthcare Foundation, wants to see the new Strategic Health Resource Center thrive. We wanted to be ahead of the curve regarding health care, and to continue our leadership nationally on these issues.

Mr. Daroff hopes that the new Center will have a real impact on the public policy debate in Washington. These critical health care issues are not going away; in fact they are only going to get worse with the passing years. The Strategic Health Resource Center is at the vanguard of debate and discussion, leading policy makers in a solution to make a better America. It is cutting edge. The Jewish community is stepping forward and making a difference.

For those of us who are approaching old age, or who have aging parents, this is a crucial and timely initiative. Together, we will have an impact on better health care for all Americans – not just the Jewish community – and allow them to get that care in the most efficient way possible.    

For more information, visit www.jewishfederations.org