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2015 South Carolina State Legislative Priorities

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FAMILY CAREGIVERS
More than 777,000 caregivers provide vital services to their loved ones. If caregivers can no longer provide the care needed, loved ones may need institutional care. As a result, the state could be left holding the tab because Medicaid pays for a majority of nursing home beds. Last year the Legislature approved $2 million in one-time funding for respite vouchers for family caregivers. Respite vouchers for caregivers allow the caregiver to take a break from their duties. Informal caregiving can help delay or prevent the use of nursing home care. AARPSC will continue to support efforts to stabilize respite funding.

VOLUNTEER GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR ADULTS
In 2014 legislation was passed to establish the Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem program for vulnerable adults. The mission of the South Carolina Vulnerable Adult Guardian Ad Litem (SCVAGAL) Volunteer Program is to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and exploited vulnerable adults in South Carolina Family Courts by providing quality volunteer adult guardian ad litem (GAL) representation. This program needs state funding. AARPSC requests the legislature fund this program at an estimated cost of $529,827.

UTILITIES
Last year AARPSC successfully fought utility hike requests, saving our members hundreds of millions of their hard-earned dollars. AARPSC is working to restore the State Consumer Advocate, a consumer watchdog independent from the state’s utility commission. The advocate is authorized to appear before the Public Service Commission for rate hearings. While forty-four states have offices to protect utility consumers, South Carolina does not.

CLOSE THE HEALTH CARE GAP
Hard working people who paid taxes throughout their adult life need the security of affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act gave authority to states to extend coverage through Medicaid for those making less than $15,000 a year. Hard working people who paid taxes throughout their adult life need the security of affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act gave authority to states to extend coverage through Medicaid for those making less than $15,000 a year. This provision would help 65,000 South Carolinians 50 to 65 years of age currently without health insurance, if our state would use Medicaid funds for premium payments for private health insurance. AARPSC supports a private health insurance option similar to the proposal recently passed in Arkansas.

LONG TERM CARE/HOME AND COMMUNITY BASED SERVICES
AARPSC is working with stakeholders who are exploring ways to support caregivers by improving access to home and community and based services and improving quality related to these services. Working under the umbrella of the Institute of Medicine and Public Health’s Long Term Care Task Force, recommendations will be presented to policymakers in early 2015. AARPSC will play a key role in implementing these recommendations, which include improved information and resources for family caregivers, rebalancing of current resources to enhance home and community based services (HCBS) and improvements in health outcomes. HCBS allow citizens to remain independent and avoid placement in nursing homes. AARPSC supports choice so that older and/or disabled adults who qualify for nursing home care, but who choose to remain at home may do so. Rebalancing spending on HCBS and consumer choice versus institutionalization will result in cost savings to our state.

ETHICS REFORM
Currently complaints against state legislators are handled by committees made up of fellow legislators who can dismiss complaints in secret without any input. Good government relies on the ability of elected officials to be responsive to the electorate, not financial donations. AARPSC will continue its work with coalition partners to promote legislation that expands current income disclosure and campaign contribution requirements for elected officials so voters know what groups have the potential to impact the outcome of an election.

ELECTRONIC MONITORING
Adults living in nursing facilities are usually in poor health. They often are unable to care for themselves and to protect themselves against harm. Sometimes mistreatment is suspected by family members or loved ones when they begin noticing unexplainable bruises or missing personal items. To combat this issue, AARPSC supports the use of video technology for the purpose of surveillance, documentation of care and virtual visitation. Surveillance should only be used when protections are in place to ensure that it does not infringe on the roommates’ right to privacy.

SENIOR HUNGER
South Carolina is 4 th in the nation for older adult risk of hunger and 17 th in the USDA state food insecurity ranking. Even with Social Security and Medicaid our seniors are still at risk for hunger. The average Social Security benefit is just over $1,200 a month, which most seniors rely on as their largest source of income. AARPSC will provide outreach and education to assist seniors who need help. AARPSC will also work with stakeholders to create recommendations for system changes to promote access to food for our seniors.

DRIVER SAFETY
Some drivers age 50-plus have never looked back since they got their first driver's license, but even the most experienced drivers can benefit from brushing up on their driving skills. That is why AARP offers driver safety courses for mature drivers. AARPSC supports efforts to make it easier for seniors to participate in driver training courses. To encourage increased participation, AARPSC will pursue legislation to shorten the course requirement from six to four hours.

ROADS AND HIGHWAYS
Nearly 1/3 of South Carolina’s primary and interstate highways and half of our secondary roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This creates unsafe conditions for seniors and all of our state’s citizens. Nationally, 19% of all public roads are state-owned. Local governments own the other 81% of the roads in America. South Carolina state highway funding per mile is the lowest in the nation, and fees paid to the state by each citizen are among the lowest in the nation. AARPSC will join with the SC Alliance to Fix South Carolina Roads to promote funding to address this critical need.

For questions or more information please contact our Associate State Director of Advcacy here.

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