FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 12, 2021
Nancy Carr, 443-787-5382, firstname.lastname@example.org
AARP Maryland Celebrates 2021 Legislative Wins on Rx Affordability Board Funding, Telehealth, Rural Broadband, Nursing Home Protections and Third-Party Energy Suppliers
ANNAPOLIS—AARP Maryland applauds the Maryland General Assembly for passing legislation strengthening the health and wellbeing of Marylanders aged 50-plus. The 2021 Maryland General Assembly considered a variety of bills that impact older residents and their families, including legislation on long-term care, responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health and essential workers, mental/behavioral health, fraud and scams, affordable prescription drugs and the expansion of broadband and telehealth.
“On behalf of our 860,000 members and their families, I want to thank the Maryland General Assembly for taking time to look after the needs of older and vulnerable Marylanders” said Jim Campbell, AARP’s state president and former member of the House of Delegates. “Every week during the session, our advocacy volunteers met virtually with key elected officials to share ideas and provide feedback on key pieces of legislation. We are glad to know their voices were heard!”
“Every week during the session, our advocacy volunteers met virtually with key elected officials to share ideas and provide feedback on key pieces of legislation. We are glad to know their voices were heard!”
At the outset of the legislative session, AARP Maryland engaged in a vigorous campaign of social media, action alerts and radio ads calling for an override of the Governor’s veto of SB 669/HB 1099, a 2020 measure providing a permanent funding source to support the work of the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board. “Overriding the Governor’s veto of this bill continues Maryland’s innovative measures to make prescription drugs affordable especially for those 50 plus,” said Campbell.
“The pandemic shined a spotlight on the need for greater oversight of long-term care facilities, additional training and protections for dementia patients, and attention to the behavioral health needs of older adults,” said Hank Greenberg, state director for AARP Maryland. “Our volunteer advocates worked side by side with their elected representatives to address needed long-term care reforms, consumer protections for energy customers, food insecurity, broadband access and other critical issues exacerbated by disparities.”
The pandemic also exposed that that there is no Maryland plan to address behavioral health challenges of older Marylanders. AARP Maryland advocated for initiating a budget amendment that requires state agencies to report on current and future cognitive and behavioral health needs of Maryland’s aging population and create a multiyear plan to address the issue. Greenberg said “AARP Maryland volunteer Michael Friedman, his awesome team of volunteers and our state president Jim Campbell worked with House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh on drafting this language. A full report is required by the end of 2021. This is a big win for older Marylanders and their families.”
As the pandemic raged across Maryland, the communities most at risk were older and communities of color. AARP Maryland worked on a series of bills that would address health equity. One bill in particular HB 463/SB 172 Maryland Health Equity Resource Act creates a process for designation of Health Equity Resource Communities (HERCs) to target state resources to specific regions in order to reduce health disparities, improve health outcomes and access to primary care, promote prevention services, and reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and readmissions. “AARP Maryland worked for over a year in the development of this legislation within a coalition led by Maryland Health Care for All,” said Campbell. “Volunteer Jim Gutman, who sits on AARP Maryland’s executive council, drafted testimony and monitored all sub-committee workgroup meetings in order to get this bill passed.”
“AARP has been concerned about the regulatory oversight of assisted living facilities. This year AARP Maryland partnered with Alzheimer’s Association, United Seniors of Maryland, Senator Pamela Beidle and Delegate Lisa Belcastro in supporting HB 416/SB 204 Health Care Facilities – Assisted Living Programs – Requirements for Alzheimer’s Special Care Units and Regulation. This important legislation requires the Maryland Department of Health to establish the number of dementia-specific training requirements for staff of Alzheimer’s special care units and adopt revised regulations to apply the requirements to assisted living programs,” said AARP Maryland Associate State Director for Advocacy Tammy Bresnahan. “Assisted living regulations haven’t been updated since at least 2008.”
Another concern the pandemic raised was access and affordable high-speed internet. AARP Maryland worked with Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Sarah Elfreth on the bill establishing HB 97/SB 66 Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 to increase access to high-speed internet and assist in the development of affordable broadband internet infrastructure.
AARP Maryland worked to expand telehealth. HB123/SB3 Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 2021 ensures continued access to telehealth services including audio-only telehealth, delivery of telehealth wherever the individual is located. “Jim Gutman took the lead for AARP Maryland on everything telehealth,” noted Greenberg. “Jim worked during the interim, drafted testimony and monitored hearings and subcommittee hearings. He worked as a team supporting this legislation with the Maryland Health Care Commission, Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Senator Melony Griffith. We are grateful for his leadership.”
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Representing 860,000 members in Maryland, AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.