Kansas legislators are back in Topeka with lots of issues to tackle in 2020. AARP Kansas and our team of advocacy volunteers across the state are looking forward to working with legislators on important issues that will enhance the ability of Kansans who are 50 and older to live their best lives –and provide those same options to future generations. Our focus is on making local communities livable for all ages and helping Kansans remain in their homes and communities for as long as they desire.
Top on AARP’s list of legislative priories for 2020 is Medicaid (KanCare) Expansion so that all Kansans have access to affordable healthcare. Expansion would provide health insurance to more than 150,000 Kansans who cannot afford coverage, including approximately 20,000 Kansans age 50-64 years old and about 7,400 uninsured military veterans and their families. These Kansans fall into a coverage gap – they earn too much to qualify for KanCare, but too little to be eligible for financial help to buy private insurance. Several plans to expand Medicaid (KanCare) are being proposed and will be debated in the upcoming legislative session and AARP Kansas will be on hand to advocate on behalf of Kansans who fall within the health insurance coverage gap.
AARP is also concerned about the shortage of health care providers in our state. Six of our state’s 105 counties have no physician and 18 counties have only one physician. This causes a hardship for Kansans of all ages, but particularly for those age 50 and over who tend to utilize health care more than any other age group. One solution to this problem is to allow advanced practice registered nurses (APRN’s) to have full authority to heal. Currently, APRN’s who have advanced education in areas of primary and preventative care, must function under the auspices of a practicing physician. House Bill 2412, which was carried over from the 2019 legislative session, would help eliminate current barriers that prevent APRN’s from filling gaps caused by the physician shortage.
Another area of concern is the lack of retirement savings held by Kansas workers. With workplace pensions almost non-existent and 401k’s unavailable to many, Kansas workers are not preparing for retirement. About 42 percent of Kansas’s private sector employees—roughly 423,000 individuals—work for an employer that does not offer a retirement plan. A proposal such as a workplace retirement savings plan could help workers save money directly from their paychecks and take that savings with them when they change jobs. This program would be similar to the Kansas 529 college savings plan.
AARP is also extremely focused on common sense solutions to the high cost of prescription drugs. In Kansas, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased 57.8 percent between 2012 and 2017, while annual income for Kansans only increased 12.5 percent. The high cost forces many Kansans to choose between buying medications and other essential like housing and food. While proposals are working their way through Congress to deal with high prescription drug costs, it’s important to work on this issues on the state level as well. AARP is looking into proposals for increased transparency by drug manufacturers in the cost of drugs and revenues that exceed a predetermined threshold and establishment of a drug price affordability review board that would give the state the ability to limit how much its residents pay for certain high-cost drugs.
Other critical issues that would help Kansans have the option of remaining in their homes and communities are support for caregivers, both at home and in the workplace, and affordable utilities. AARP fights to ensure that families have electric, gas, and telephone services they can count on, especially during extreme weather and other emergencies. When utility rates increase, it’s often older consumers who are affected most. AARP will continue its work on these issues and others that impact the quality of life here in Kansas.
If you are interested in becoming an AARP Kansas advocate, join one of our advocacy volunteer teams. Call us at 866-448-3619 or e-mail us at email@example.com for more information on how to get involved and use your skills and talents to make a difference in your state and community.