Release: Sanders Named Chairman of Health and Aging Panel

Subcommittee Oversees LIHEAP, Health Centers and Seniors Programs

WASHINGTON, March 16 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was appointed today to chair the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.  

“With more Americans heading into retirement, we need to focus on supporting our seniors and ensuring their quality of life.  I look forward to working side by side with Sen. Sanders to protect the benefits that our seniors have worked hard for, from pensions to health care, while also advocating for programs like community health centers and LIHEAP that are vital to families across the country in these tough economic times,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the full Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Sanders’ panel is responsible for several areas that are among his top priorities, including community health centers, home heating assistance, seniors programs, pensions and dental care.

Sanders has been a champion in Congress for community health centers, securing $11 billion in last year’s health care reform law to increase the number of patients served in the next five years by 20 million.  That infusion of support came on the heels of another $2 billion that he added in the 2009 stimulus bill.

The centers provide affordable primary and dental care as well as low-cost prescription drugs and mental health counseling. In Vermont, Community health Centers now serve over 100,000 Vermonters.   

The subcommittee’s oversight of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will allow Sanders to continue to fight for the much-needed program.  “During these very difficult times, seniors on fixed incomes and families with children shouldn’t have to make the choice between heating their homes and putting food on the table,” Sanders said.

Sanders led the effort in Congress to double funding for LIHEAP to $5.1 billion annually since 2008.  Unfortunately, President Obama proposed cutting the program in half for next year and House-passed legislation would slash $400 million from the program this year.  Vermont’s congressional delegation has pledged to fight such cuts.  

Sanders’s panel also has jurisdiction over the Older Americans Act, which is up for reauthorization this year.  Its programs include “meals on wheels,” congregate meals, and senior center programs.

Sanders’ subcommittee is one of three subcommittees of the H.E.L.P. committee.