Medical Records & StethoscopeContact: Erik Kriss 518-447-6723, ekriss@aarp.org   

Bill Before Governor Would Ensure Boomers Are Offered Screening Test; 2nd AARP-backed Bill Would Cut Red Tape for Boomers Acting as Guardians

ALBANY, N. Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo can make New York a national leader in protecting baby boomers’ health by signing an AARP-backed bill requiring that health care providers offer them a screening test for potentially deadly hepatitis C.

New York would become the first state in the nation to ensure boomers are offered the important, preventative test.

AARP is urging the Governor to sign the bill, along with another bill before him that would cut red tape for guardians by simplifying the process for exercising their rights when their loved ones live in another state.

Both bills were transmitted to the Governor last Friday, October 11.

Hepatitis C Screening

The Hepatitis C bill (S2750A/A1286), sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City), requires screening tests be offered to people born between 1945 and 1965 when seeing their primary care doctor and receiving hospital inpatient and outpatient care.

Many baby boomers across New York have hepatitis C without even knowing it. Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or fatal liver cancer.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called for such testing in August 2012 after finding people born between 1945 and 1965 are at risk for Hepatitis C infection. Those baby boomers accounted for 75 percent of the estimated 3.2 million Americans infected with hepatitis C, the CDC found.

An estimated 200,000 New Yorkers are living with Hepatitis C, and it’s an increasing cause of illness and death. But 45 percent to 85 percent of people living with the disease are unaware they have it, since it often shows no symptoms, according to a CDC report.

The CDC recognized AARP New York’s advocacy of the bill in July by presenting an award for State Director Beth Finkel at a reception on the White House grounds in Washington, D.C. The reception at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was part of World Hepatitis Day events sponsored by the White House Offices of National AIDS Policy and National Drug Control Policy.

“Offering a screening test to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers whose lives could be saved or improved is common sense and good preventive medicine,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. “AARP is encouraged that Governor Cuomo asked for the bill to be sent to him, and he has a chance to make New York a national leader on this critical issue by signing it into law.”

There have been great advances over the past few years in treatments for hepatitis C, and many carrying the disease can be cured.

By increasing testing opportunities, the bill would make more people living with hepatitis C aware of their infection status, get available treatment, and take steps to prevent transmission.

Empowering individuals to know their hepatitis C infection status is an important step toward meeting the public health challenges presented by a disease that is contagious and communicable. Given that many people infected with this disease show no symptoms, testing is a crucial factor in disease prevention.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, urged colleagues last spring to test all baby boomers for hepatitis C.

Guardianship

The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (S2534/A857) would eliminate costly and time-consuming red tape for guardians in exercising health care, financial and other legal responsibilities for elderly parents or other loved ones who live out of state.

Under current law, guardians who live in New York must often hire lawyers to help them navigate other states’ court systems to receive approval to exercise their responsibilities – after they’ve already obtained such legal orders in New York.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein:

  • Makes it easier to enforce guardianship and protective orders by authorizing guardians or conservators to register their New York orders in other states.
  • Establishes a procedure for transferring a guardianship or conservatorship to another state and for accepting a transfer, helping to eliminate the expense and wait of initiating a separate new proceeding.
  • Creates a clear process for determining which state has jurisdiction to appoint a guardian or conservator if there is a conflict. The court in the individual’s “home state” would hear the case, followed by a state in which the individual has a “significant connection.”
  • Reduces elder abuse by barring someone who wrongfully seeks control and assets of an elder (or anyone else) from taking a person across state lines and immediately being named guardian. A court could refuse to hear the case because of “unjustifiable conduct’ and penalize perpetrators.

The New York law is part of AARP’s national fight to focus on care, not courts, by removing the barriers that prevent caregivers from providing for their loved ones, regardless of where the loved ones live.

“Forcing caregivers to spend time in lengthy and expensive court proceedings that drain family resources undermines their ability to provide care for their loves ones,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York.  “Governor Cuomo would be taking an important step toward cutting red tape for New Yorkers who care for loved ones in more than two thirds of other states, which have this law on the books. AARP hopes the momentum would push the final states to join and create uniformity and reciprocity across the nation.”

The measure, supported by judges, lawyers and families, carries no cost to taxpayers and makes no changes in the state’s substantive guardianship law and procedures. But it would save New Yorkers time and money, and in the process help safeguard the health of their loved ones.

In today’s mobile society, families often have connections in many states. In some families, a loved one may need the help of a guardian if no advance planning options are in place. But because guardianship is handled in state courts and each state has its own laws and procedures, families can get caught in jurisdictional tangles that can cost a lot of money, delay good care, aggravate family disputes, and open the door for elder abuse.

The solution is a simple set of jurisdictional rules to which all states can agree. 

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

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