What did the 2013 Arkansas legislative season mean for YOU?

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AARP Arkansas during the 2013 regular legislative session helped secure a number of key victories on behalf of Arkansans, particularly those 50 plus. Wins included expanded access to affordable health care coverage, funding for senior centers/meals, and creation of a state-run health insurance exchange with strong consumer representation.

The Regular Session of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly formally adjourned Friday, May 17, 2013, after 101 days. The 2013 session was the longest regular session in more than 80 years, since the 1931 session during the Great Depression.

The Legislature is adjourned, unless the Governor calls a special legislative session, until February 2014, when the next state Fiscal Session is scheduled to convene. These sessions, which deal solely with the state budget, have previously lasted about 30 days.

 HEALTH CARE

Acts 1419 and 1497/1498 of 2013: These laws authorize the state to expand access to affordable health care coverage to more than 200,000 Arkansans and to spend federal Medicaid dollars to subsidize that coverage. The Health Care Independence Act of 2013 innovatively leverages federal Medicaid funding to help qualifying Arkansans purchase private health insurance on the state’s health insurance exchange. Securing expanded access to health care coverage was one of AARP Arkansas’ 2013 Legislative Priorities.

Act 1500 establishes a state-run health insurance exchange.  AARP worked successfully to add an additional consumer representative to the governing board. Two years ago AARP supported legislation to establish a state run health insurance exchange.  The 2011 bill failed to clear either legislative chamber. A state-run health insurance exchange fulfills another of AARP Arkansas’ 2013 Legislative Priorities. The Arkansas Insurance Department has already begun public outreach on the exchange, which is scheduled to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014. More information about the state’s health insurance exchange is available at http://hbe.arkansas.gov/

SENIOR MEALS

Act 1518, which  provides $1.52 million in funding for senior centers and senior meals. Securing state General Improvement funding for senior meals was one of AARP Arkansas’ 2013 Legislative Priorities.

HOUSING TRUST FUND

Act 1518, which authorizes funding for a variety of projects, also provides $500,000 to the Arkansas Housing Trust Fund to improve housing affordability in each of the state’s four Congressional Districts. AARP Arkansas is a long-time advocate for an Arkansas Housing Trust Fund, which was established in 2009 but without funding initially. More information about the housing trust fund is available at www.housingar.org

“Overall, AARP Arkansas had a very successful 2013 legislative session, and once again it was our volunteers that really made all the difference,” said State Director Maria Reynolds-Diaz.“Thanks to the efforts of all our volunteers who e-mailed, called and showed up at the Capitol, many good bills became law, and several bad bills were stopped in their tracks. Between now and the next legislative session, AARP Arkansas will continue to vigilantly advocate on behalf of Arkansans 50 plus.”

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