Leslie Siphers is an Advocacy Specialist for AARP Massachusetts

AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa speaks with a proponent of The Ride, the MBTA's transportation service  for seniors and those who are disabled. Festa testified at the State House against proposed cuts to the service.

AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa speaks with a proponent of The Ride, the MBTA’s transportation service for seniors and those who are disabled. Festa testified at the State House against proposed cuts to the service.

Hello to all,

Lots of advocacy news to report…

AARP MA Weighs in on Proposed MBTA Changes

On Thursday, October 31st, AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa spoke at the State House in support of House Bill No. 3085, House Bill No. 3059, and Senate Bill No. 1655. Mike was one of several speakers at a press conference in Nurses Hall, along with Representative James O’Day and several members of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. In addition, Mike testified on behalf of the bills before the Joint Committee on Transportation.

House Bill No. 3059 and Senate Bill No. 1655, both relative to a more equitable public transit fee structure, would provide increased accessibility to public transportation for people of all ages. The population of Massachusetts is rapidly aging, and with this approaching demographic shift comes a higher demand for safe and viable transportation alternatives. AARP consistently encourages transit authorities to reduce fares for disabled or low-income older people, and this principle is reflected in the tiered fare structure of these two acts. The fare structure is fair and reflects an average senior’s ability to pay, thus making it both affordable and accessible.

House Bill No. 3085, an act relative to The Ride, a service of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), would expand The Ride services to those in communities within 25 miles of Boston, in order to transport more Bay State residents to the city for medically-related purposes. This bill expands access to The Ride over a larger geographical area and serves as a way of preventing them from becoming isolated within their own communities. This expanded access is funded in a way that is reflective of The Ride’s purpose – helping the most vulnerable receive affordable access for medically-related purposes. There is not only a benefit to those who use The Ride; medical providers also benefit by seeing more patients, and they, in turn, reimburse the MBTA for the cost of transporting these patients to their offices.

President Obama Visits Boston, Speaks on ACA

President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday at Faneuil Hall in Boston, highlighting the bipartisan cooperation that made health reform in Massachusetts a success for enrolling uninsured residents. The President spoke from the same stage that former Governor Mitt Romney used when he signed the historic Massachusetts health care law in 2006.

A report on radio 90.0 WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, stated that “rolling out the model nationwide has been rocky. Some governors are refusing to participate. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to repeal the national law again and again. And the federal website, where Americans are supposed to be able to shop for insurance, is a mess.”

“There’s no denying it,” the President said, according to WBUR’s report, “right now the website is too slow. Too many people have gotten stuck and I am not happy about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care. And they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible. So there’s no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick introduced the President on Wednesday, expressing his confidence in the Affordable Care Act and Healthcare.gov, saying to the State House News Service that the ACA “is not a website. It’s a values statement.” Patrick and Romney will both appear on Meet the Press Sunday with David Gregory to offer their opinions on the ACA and the rollout of the federal enrollment exchange website.

A report on the Huffington Post on Wednesday, Oct. 30 stated that “Obama administration officials are scrambling to fix their broken Obamacare enrollment website, but in the meantime, the AARP is coming to the rescue.” The report’s reference was to the  AARP website HealthLawAnswers.org, which explains the ACA benefits and lets users know whether it’s in their best interest to enroll, but does not actually enroll people in Obamacare. Since the website re-launched in August of 2013, the site has had nearly 314,000 visits, according to Nicole Duritz, AARP’s vice president of health education and outreach.

Speaking to the Huffington Post about the federal enrollment exchange website, Duritz  said, “Everybody wants the site to work well. It would be wonderful if everything was working exactly as it had been planned. But there are a number of ways you can learn about Obamacare. We want to make people aware of the process.”

ACTION ALERT

Beginning today, Friday, November 1st, monthly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits will decrease across the nation. The federal law, which included a provision that boosted SNAP benefits during the Recession, expired today. This means that all 497,000 SNAP households in Massachusetts will suffer a loss in SNAP benefits. This reduction in SNAP benefits ranges from a monthly decrease of $11 for a one-person household, up to $52 for a six-person household.

In other SNAP related news, Governor Deval Patrick sent a letter dated October 30th, to the 2013 Farm Bill Conferees in defense of SNAP. This letter was written in opposition to the proposed cuts, including the Heat and Eat proposal, which could impact 125,000 Massachusetts SNAP households that participate, causing a loss of an additional $70 a month. The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation continues to be a strong voice against cuts to SNAP.

Please contact the Governor and your members of Congress to thank them for defending the SNAP program on behalf of Bay State residents.

See our website for more information on the SNAP reductions.  Videos about the SNAP cuts are also available on the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) website.

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