TESTIMONY OF AARP MASSACHUSETTS
HOUSE BILL NO. 1177 AND SENATE BILL NO. 678
AN ACT IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH THROUGH A COMMON APPLICATION FOR CORE FOOD, HEALTH AND SAFETY-NET PROGRAMS
THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HEALTH CARE FINANCING
MAY 28, 2019
Good morning Chairwoman Friedman, Chairwoman Benson, members of the committee. I am Mike Festa, state director of AARP Massachusetts. On behalf of the nearly 38 million AARP members nationwide and 800,000 members here in the Commonwealth, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. We are here to urge you to favorably report on House Bill No. 1177 and Senate Bill No. 678, An Act Improving Public Health through a Common Application for Core Food, Health and Safety-Net Programs.
Seniors are struggling with food insecurity. They may have poorer health outcomes or run out of food. Some are skipping meals or postponing medical care. And, some are choosing between paying for food and medicine.
There are more than 1 million Commonwealth residents age 65 and over, and according to a recent study by UMass Boston, many elders in Massachusetts are at risk of being unable to afford basic needs and to age in their own homes. Using a tool that considers only the costs of Housing, Food, Transportation, and Health Care, without allowing for any vacations, restaurant meals, or entertainment of any kind, the researchers still found that over 60% of single older adults, and nearly 30% of older couples in Massachusetts are unable to survive without government assistance in addition to Social Security.
One program that helps these residents afford to stay in their homes and communities is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This federally funded program is administered by the state, and provides needy families with assistance in buying food. Unfortunately, there is a large gap between the number of residents who likely qualify for this federal assistance based on their MassHealth enrollment, and those who actually receive it. Among the more than 700,000 people who are estimated to fall into this gap are over 100,000 elders here in Massachusetts who would benefit greatly from this assistance.
MassHealth, SNAP, and other safety-net programs at the state level all have separate application processes that rely on the same basic information, creating a barrier for clients of multiple programs, and duplicating work for state employees. These bills, House Bill No. 1177 and Senate Bill No. 678, would create a common application portal for all of these programs. This shared application would decrease paperwork for applicants and employees, while making many MassHealth recipients aware of the federally funded benefits for which they may qualify. For the 100,000 elders in Massachusetts who fall into this category, a common application would be an important step towards ensuring they have the income and support they require to remain in their homes and communities.
Now is the time to make it easier for seniors to get the benefits they need. We urge you to favorably pass House Bill No. 1177 and Senate Bill No. 678. Thank you.