RICHMOND _ AARP volunteers head to the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday to ask legislators to improve programs that help Virginians who need health care coverage and those in long-term care facilities, as well as to create a program to help workers save for retirement.
With more than 1.1 million members in Virginia, AARP is the largest organization working on behalf of people age 50+ in the Commonwealth. In recent years, AARP Virginia has successfully fought for protections for older people against financial exploitation, gained recognition of the problems of family caregivers, and helped nurse practitioners be able to practice to the extent of their training.
When lawmakers head to the capitol this week, AARP Virginia volunteers will urge lawmakers to “close the coverage gap,” where 400,000 Virginians remain uninsured because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid under Virginia’s current program but too little to get tax credits to help pay for coverage through the marketplace.
Virginia’s Medicaid program plays a crucial role in providing health coverage for nearly 1 million Virginians, including parents with low incomes, older adults, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children. However, Virginia’s Medicaid program is among the stingiest in the country, leaving 400,000 without health insurance.
AARP Virginia volunteers, as part of the Healthcare for All Virginians coalition of more than 100 consumer and provider advocacy groups, will ask the General Assembly to take advantage of available federal dollars to provide coverage for more Virginians. This will allow Virginia to make long overdue investments in its behavioral health system and seriously address our state’s ongoing opioid crisis. By making use of all available resources, Virginia would see a net savings of $421.7 million over the next two years alone. Most importantly, Medicaid expansion would offer health coverage for 400,000 Virginians who can’t get the care they need.
“Virginia’s elected officials have a choice about whether theirs is a government for the people or not,” said Jim Dau, AARP Virginia State Director. “Closing the coverage gap would not only help provide health insurance for people who need it, but it would also free up funds to pay for other critical priorities.”
Another priority for AARP Virginia advocates is to improve a program that assists people who receive long-term care services, and their families. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program advocates for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and those who receive home health services.
Many long-term care recipients are too medically or emotionally frail to speak up for themselves. The state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program acts as the voice for these individuals to resolve care problems with their facility or provider.
The Code of Virginia mandates that the program provide one ombudsman to every 2,000 long-term care beds. Current funding leaves the state short 35 ombudsmen. AARP Virginia, as a member of the Northern Virginia Aging Network and the Virginia Elder Rights Coalition, urges lawmakers to make progress by modestly increasing funding for the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Currently there are two budget amendments being considered; the House of Delegates budget amendment would appropriate $1,176,021 to the program and the Senate has introduced their budget amendment that would appropriate $1,764,032 to the program.
AARP Virginia volunteer advocates also will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation to help workers save for retirement with a Work and Save Plan.
AARP Virginia is fighting to put a secure retirement within reach for people who work hard and plan for their future. Many Virginians do not have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401k.
Senator Frank Ruff (R) and Delegate Luke Torian (D) are sponsoring legislation that would create an online marketplace to make it easier for small businesses to set up voluntary retirement savings plans for their employees.
“Work and Save is a common-sense solution with rare bipartisan support that can help more than 1 million Virginians build their own nest eggs,” said Dau.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.