It’s that time of year when lots of critical issues are being discussed and debated at the Kansas Legislature in Topeka. AARP Advocacy Director Ernie Kutzley is working with partners and volunteers to research issues, testify before legislative committees, and keep in constant contact with legislators. While AARP Kansas introduces and/or monitors dozens of the hundreds of bills that get introduced each year, there are several we are focusing our attention on in 2013.
First, AARP has proposed an increase in the amount of nursing care hours received by nursing home residents each day. In Kansas, the current minimum established by law is two hours of direct nursing care per 24 hours. That two hour minimum has not been increased for more than 30 years. AARP is pushing for the minimum number to be increased to 4.4 hours of nursing care per day to protect from or prevent illnesses, injury, hospitalization and death of our nursing home residents.
Another issue that AARP is working on is legislation that would create a task force to study disparities in nursing home care and long-term services and supports. Disparities may exist in health outcomes, access to services, insurance coverage, and prevalence of chronic diseases. Given the rapid pace of changes in demographics in our state, it is critical that these disparities by addressed.
In addition, AARP is working with partners to urge legislators to create an independent oversight committee for KanCare—the new state program that contracts with private providers or Managed Care Organizations (MCO’s) to provide Medicaid/Healthwave services to lower-income Kansas residents as well as older adults and persons with disabilities. AARP believes the aggressive timeline in which this new system was put into place will affect our state’s frailest and most vulnerable residents by placing them in a system that lacks safeguards to ensure enrollees will receive the care and services they need.
Other issues such as taxes, utility affordability, pensions, and consumer protections are always at the top of our list to ensure that they benefit all Kansans.
Finally, we are urging Governor Brownback to approve expansion of the state Medicaid program. States, through the Affordable Care Act, have the option of expanding Medicare beginning in 2014, to include residents with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. This expansion, paid 100% by the federal government for the first 3 years, would provide 169,000 newly eligible Kansans with coverage, many of whom have jobs but can’t afford health care coverage. This decision rests with Governor Brownback alone.
AARP Kansas hopes that you will join us in our efforts to help make Kansas a better place to live by contacting your local legislators to let them know how you stand on these issues. We are also recruiting volunteers for our Capitol City Task Force to work on legislative issues and encourage you to contact Ernie Kutzley at 866-448-3619 if you are interested in being a part of this effort.