By Jill Gambon
Numerous state and federal offices are up for grabs Nov. 4, and the election could affect priority issues for older residents of the commonwealth, including access to health and pension benefits and long-term care services.
With Gov. Deval Patrick (D) stepping down after two terms, Massachusetts will have its first new occupant in the State House corner office since 2007, as well as a new lieutenant governor, attorney general and state treasurer.
Voters will also decide whether to send Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey back to Washington or elect Brian Herr, a former Hopkinton selectman running on the Republican ticket. Around the state, candidates for the U.S. House as well as state representative and state senator will be on the ballot, too.
New leadership on Beacon Hill could affect state spending on programs such as home care, housing and public-employee pensions.
With people 65-plus the fastest-growing group in the state, the need for services such as long-term care will continue to rise. AARP Massachusetts is calling on elected officials to embrace policies and back funding that will sustain these essential programs for the long term.
“AARP Massachusetts supports funding key programs and services that aid older residents in Massachusetts, such as elder protective services, elder nutrition, home- and community-based care, and councils on aging,” said Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts state director.
“As the state’s growing aging population’s needs continue to increase, critical programs that serve the most vulnerable among us must be protected,” he added.
AARP Massachusetts has identified several issues for voters to consider as they head to the polls in November. They include:
- Health care: AARP Massachusetts is pushing for adequate funding of the state’s Prescription Advantage program, an insurance plan for older and disabled Massachusetts residents who meet specific income and employment guidelines.The program protects enrollees from coverage gaps in Medicare Part D and helps cover premiums and cost-sharing requirements. These citizens are particularly vulnerable when it comes to paying health care bills. Nationally, Medicare beneficiaries devote an estimated 14 percent of total household spending to health care expenses, nearly three times as much as non-Medicare households, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- Long-term care: AARP Massachusetts is advocating for several measures that would expand the availability of quality, affordable care. They include full funding for long-term services, whether at home or at a skilled nursing facility, and support for family caregiver assistance, which would cover education and training and provide funding for programs that help people compensate relatives and friends who care for them.
- Financial security: Strengthening the financial security of the commonwealth’s residents age 50-plus, through private workplace retirement savings plans and work-and-save retirement options, are legislative priorities for AARP Massachusetts. Additionally, age discrimination is one of the key reasons it takes unemployed older workers almost a year, on average, to find another job. AARP is working to ensure that every American worker is treated fairly on the job—and that older workers are judged on their skills and abilities, not their age.
For more information on the issues and the federal and state candidates’ positions ahead of the Nov. 4 election, consult the AARP Massachusetts voters guide at aarp.org/yourvote.
Jill Gambon is a writer living in West Newbury, Mass.