By Kira Hessekiel, Advocacy and Outreach Support AARP Massachusetts
This week, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed the budget for the 2014 fiscal year. The culmination of a complex negotiation process, it carries several wins for older Bay Staters.
AARP Massachusetts is proud to report that this budget saw an increase in funding for home and community-based care, thereby eliminating the Home Care Waiting List. This victory means that Massachusetts residents have more freedom to choose the living environment that best meets their needs and remain in their communities. Additionally, the Massachusetts Councils on Aging and Senior Centers received $1 million more in funding to support the important community programs, opportunities, and services they provide to the Commonwealth’s older adults that help make a strong and vibrant community.
In order to adequately provide key protective services to elders who face physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect and/or financial exploitation, the coming year’s budget boosts the Elder Protective Services resources by $4 million. With this increased funding, Elder Protective Services will more effectively defend those older adults who rely on caregivers against abuse and neglect.
Massachusetts again leads on healthcare with the formal approval of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion. The 2014 budget guarantees seamless integration of these programs into Massachusetts’ existing healthcare platform, adhering to federal timelines and easing the transition of consumers. We look forward to the opening of the state’s health insurance exchange by the end of 2013. Also on the healthcare front, Academic Detailing (PDF), an independent and objective drug education program for doctors, has been funded. This program will help doctors make informed decisions about the best medication choices for their patients.
We applaud the State Legislature for passing these key budget features for 2014. AARP Massachusetts also is happy to report that the SNAP photo identification requirement added to the 2013 supplemental budget will exempt the most vulnerable populations, including those over 60, the blind, and the disabled. We continue to hope that Governor Patrick will see that this costly and burdensome photo identification provision for all SNAP recipients does not become law, and that regulators will make sure all who are entitled to this important nutritional assistance receive it.