Published on February 3, 2003
Last Wednesday evening, former U.S. Sen. Frank Moss of Utah died.
After he received his law degree in 1937 from Washington, DC-based George Washington University, Moss briefly worked on the legal staff of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Throughout his legal career, he would sharpen his legal skills by working in a variety of settings. Initially, clerking at the Utah Supreme Court, he would ultimately win an election putting him on the bench of the Salt Lake City Municipal Court in 1940.
During the World War II, he would serve on the Judge Advocate General’s staff of the U.S. Armory Corps in England. After the war, Moss would be elected in 1950, reelected in 1954, to serve as Salt Lake County attorney.
Two years after his unsuccessful bid for Utah Governor, in 1956, Moss would run for Senate and win, by less than 40 percent of the vote.
Obituaries in newspapers stated that the liberal three-term Senate Democrat was best known for his environmental work that included the establishment of national parks and recreational areas in Utah. Moss was also recognized for drafting a series of bill protecting consumers, ranging from mandating labeling on cigarette packages about the health hazards of smoking, banning cigarette advertising on radio and television, to developing minimum safety requirements for automobiles.
But for me and many of my colleagues in the field of aging, we will always remember Moss as being a true advocate for the nation’s elderly.
Moss worked closely with President Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who would later become President, Hubert Humphrey and Claude Pepper getting Medicare and Medicaid enacted into law.
Moreover, Moss will always be remembered for being the driving force behind the establishment of the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 1961.
He also played a major role in establishing the House Committee on Aging with the late Rep. Claude Pepper. The two special committees would later put the spotlight on aging policy issues, generating both the public and political will to bring about the needed policy changes.
Throughout his Senate Career, in addition to authoring legislation that would require federal minimum standards for nursing homes and helping to create the Medicare and Medicaid home health care benefits. Moss held the first hearing on hospice care and introduced legislation authorizing payment for hospice care.
More than 40 years ago, the Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Moss, began to hold a series of hearing s on nursing homes. It became extremely clear to his committee through its hearings, generating 1,300 pages of testimony, that both nursing home standards and enforcement by state regulatory agencies varied drastically. Moss noted that these hearings helped to shape the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and that they also lead to series of reforms in 1967.
Ultimately, a series of 30 hearings held between 1969 and 1976 eventually lead to the publication of a 12-volume report, entitled “Nursing Home Care in the United States: Failure in Public Policy.”
In 1977, Moss, with coauthor Val Halmandaris (who at the time was responsible for research of the Subcommittee of Long-Term Care, but now serves as executive director of the National Association of Home Care) wrote “Too Old, Too Sick, Too Bad: Nursing Homes in America,” detailing the plight of America’s elderly.
More than 10 years later, in a 1998 speech to the National Council on Aging, Moss expressed his concerns that American’s elderly were losing ground from all the gains they had achieved in the late 1960s and 1970s. Congress has yet to enact a pharmaceutical drug program to put the brakes on spiraling drug costs. Elder abuse is still running rampant throughout the nation. Medicare expenditures are being slashed to nursing homes, home and hospice care.
It is now time for Congress to get serious about tackling the multitude of problems thrust upon the nation by an aging society. Moss’ advocacy comment to the nation’s elderly will be sorely missed, and his shoes will be hard to fill.
Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who writes about aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.