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New Legislature Faces Hot Issues

Indianapolis Morning
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By Diana Lamirand

AARP Indiana wants older Hoosiers to be able to remain in their homes as long as possible, with access to health care, connectivity to their communities, and care provided by family members when needed.

Ambre Marr, the association’s state legislative director, outlined AARP’s top priorities for the legislative session that begins Jan. 3: Expand the ability of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to provide care, promote access to and education about broadband services, and build support for legislation on family leave to help caregivers.

“Our aging population in Indiana is only going to grow larger,” Marr said. “We want people to be able to age in place.”

Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) hopes a compromise limiting the number of years that APRNs must receive physician oversight will be enough to push the legislation forward in the 2019 session.

“My ultimate goal is to give APRNs a pathway to practice on their own,” Bacon said.

“By doing that, we’ll be able to provide more access to health care, especially in the rural communities that I represent.”

Current state law requires an APRN with prescriptive authority to enter a contractual agreement with a licensed physician.

Bacon is working on a compromise between the APRNs, who believe that paying a physician indefinitely for oversight is burdensome, and Indiana’s doctor groups, which question the level of training and clinical experience that the nurse practitioners have compared with family physicians.

Family leave for caregivers?
GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order last year to grant state employees up to 150 hours of paid parental leave gives AARP Indiana hope for passage of a family leave bill for caregivers.

Last session, Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) proposed a study of ways to create a voluntary family and medical leave program for Indiana employers.

Sen. John Ruckelshaus (R-Indianapolis) said he’s “very interested” in joining forces with Tallian to support legislation for such a leave program so employers could use it to attract talented job candidates.

The voluntary paid family and medical leave program would allow workers to opt in by deducting a small amount from their paychecks to build up funds they could use when they take time off to care for loved ones.

Bridging the digital divide
Holcomb’s September announcement of a $100 million state grant program to expand broadband access to rural areas reinforced AARP Indiana’s commitment to digital literacy, Marr said.

“Broadband services are not a luxury anymore; they’re a necessity, like a utility,”Marr said, and are important for telemedicine.

“But once you roll it out, you worry about whether it’s affordable and if people know how to use it. It’s not enough to get broadband access; we need to promote tech literacy as well,” she added.

AARP Indiana will meet with Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R) to advocate for digital education, Marr said. For more information visit aarp.org/in.

“We are willing to be part of that solution, whether it’s going into these communities and teaching people how to use the internet or helping them to understand why it’s necessary,” Marr said.

Diana Lamirand is a writer living in Noblesville.

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