The following are issues that AARP Kansas staff and volunteers will be advocating for during the 2021 legislative session which begins on Monday, January 11, 2021.
Long-term Care and Caregiver Support:
AARP Kansas will continue supporting family caregivers with proposed legislation that will establish a Senior Services Task Force. The task force would be required to study aging issues included in the AARP 2020 Long Term Services and Supports Scorecard like those listed below.
- Kansas ranks 47th in its support of family caregivers. The nearly 605,000 family caregivers in Kansas provide over $4.1 billion worth of care annually to their loved ones, saving the state billions. Providing some basic, low and no-cost supports for caregivers will ensure that they can continue to provide this care, saving Kansas additional budget dollars and enabling older and disabled Kansans to remain in communities, connected to their families.
- Many Kansas counties are experiencing a shortage of health care providers. This negatively influences the health care of all Kansas residents, especially those aged 50 and above, since this age group tends to utilize health care more than other age groups. Currently, an advance practice registered nurse (APRN) must function under the auspices of a practicing physician. Nurse practitioners are licensed by the Kansas State Board of Nursing. They have advanced education and experience in areas of primary care and preventive care. Governor Kelly, in Executive Order #20-26, temporarily waived physician supervision and collaborative agreements for licensees, including APRNs, physician assistants and licensed practical nurses. The order expires on January 26, 2021. AARP Kansas will urge the Kansas Legislature to make this order permanent for APRNs and give advance practice nurses licensed under the Board of Nursing full authority to heal.
- Kansas also currently ranks 47th among the states in nursing homes with low-need residents. By providing transitional funds, older and disabled Kansans who want to move back to their communities could do so and they could receive appropriate care in their chosen environment.
Nursing Home Quality of Care:
AARP Kansas will continue fighting to keep residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities safe and their families connected. In March, with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic devastating long-term care facilities across the country, AARP launched a campaign with the goals of fighting to protect residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities from sickness, isolation and neglect through federal and state advocacy and empowering their family caregivers to advocate on their loved ones’ behalf through information and education. As of November 2020, Kansas nursing home COVID-19 deaths reached 614, (total since January 2020) or 46 % of all COVID-19 deaths in state. Approximately 373 facilities are impacted. This information comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
AARP is urging Kansas leaders to make permanent the components of AARP’s five-point plan (testing, personal protective equipment, transparency, visitation, and quality care) by addressing workforce issues, ensuring financial accountability of nursing homes, and adopting forward-looking measures that transform the traditional nursing home model and/or prevent future infection crises.
Medicaid (KanCare) Expansion:
AARP Kansas will continue to support the expansion of the Medicaid program, known as KanCare, in Kansas. Expansion would provide health coverage to more than 150,000 Kansans who currently cannot afford coverage, including roughly 20,000 Kansans who are 50-64 years old and about 7,400 uninsured military veterans and their families. These individuals earn too much to qualify for KanCare but too little to be eligible to get financial help to buy private insurance. To date, Kansas has lost over $4.4 billion in benefits while waiting for expansion.
Financial Security - Work and Save:
As pensions through one’s place of employment have become less available, and 401K savings programs are often not provided at workplaces, savings for retirement have plummeted. 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 Workplace Retirement Savings program would allow workers to 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. Workers who have a way to save retirement via payroll deduction are 15 times more likely to save for retirement.
Affordable, Reliable Utilities:
Across the country, 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 is often older consumers who are affected most. Utility bills account for about 7% of a typical household’s expenses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013 Consumer Expenditure Survey). For individuals 65 and over, however, the percentage is 12%.
AARP Kansas will continue to urge state elected officials and the Kansas Corporation Commission to review all utilities to ensure continued access to critical services, protections for the most vulnerable, and rejection of all unnecessary utility spending that would further burden consumers.
The current pandemic and recommended social distancing requirements has highlighted the fact that high-speed internet is not just a luxury, but a necessity for health care and social interaction. Ensuring broadband access, affordability, and training is essential. It enables older people to benefit fully from technologies that improve quality of life and to safely age in place. Broadband can facilitate access to services and activities that contribute to successful aging. These include health care services, social contacts, employment, recreation, civic engagement, and entertainment. In order to have these options, high-speed networks must be available and support bandwidth-intensive applications for a rapidly growing user base. AARP Kansas will support the Kansas Legislature and Governor Kelly in their continued expedited expansion of broadband to underserved areas in both urban and rural Kansas.
If you are interested in joining our virtual advocacy team, please contact Andrea Bozarth at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll-free 1-866-448-3619.