Association to fight for issues critical to aging Montanans; Members urged to ask their legislators to support 2013 agenda
Montana's 2013 legislative session will kick-off on January 7th and with a slew of new legislators at the capitol, AARP Montana, the state's largest membership association, representing the most active voting demographics, has crucial issues it wants lawmakers to act on. AARP Montana recently released its 2013 legislative agenda that zeros in on the key concerns of the state's 50+ population and outlines strategies to address critical aging issues such as long term care, senior services, retiree financial security and health care.
“Older Montanans, especially those over age 75, are projected to be a larger portion of our state’s population,” said Joy Bruck, State President for AARP in Montana. “Policymakers need to plan for this shift in demographics by enhancing services and infrastructure in our communities so Montanans can be independent, engaged and productive members of our state.”
AARP Montana based its legislative agenda on surveys of AARP members, its national policies which are determined by a volunteer member council, and issues that AARP Montana undertook in previous legislative sessions.
AARP Montana 2013 Legislative Agenda:
1. Helping Montanans age in their homes and communities. AARP supports the Long Term Care Choices Coalition Legislative Agenda for 2013. Some of the highlights of that agenda are:
• Community First Choice – This initiative would refinance Medicaid personal care services that help people with basics of daily living. If adopted in the appropriations bill, Montana will be able to do much more for people at no cost to the state.
• Money Follows the Person – This proposal will enhance transitions of people from nursing homes and institutions to community settings or homes.
• Medicaid Waiver Home and Community Based Services – there is a waiting list for services that provide care in home settings as an alternative to nursing home care. AARP Montana will ask for a moderate expansion of these services.
• Area Agencies on Aging – Local senior services, such as meals-on-wheels, senior information and assistance, home care, and local senior centers are doing more for our aging population. AARP Montana will advocate for more funding to meet the heavy demand for these services.
• Payment of Medicaid Services – Medicaid providers in Montana have not had a rate increase since 2008. During that same period, wages, food, supplies and other costs of doing business have increased. Failure to increase Medicaid payments to account for inflation will result in a decrease in quality of care for Montana seniors.
2. Creating Consumer Information and Preventing Fraud in Medicaid in-home personal care services. This bill creates a directory of information voluntarily submitted by businesses that provide in-home personal care services – allowing consumers to comparison shop for these services. This legislation would also prevent fraud by requiring that employees and consumers be trained on what constitutes fraud, what its consequences are and how to report it. Finally, the bill will provide more tools to examine how Medicaid personal assistance dollars are spent.
3. Planning for an Aging Population. AARP Montana is recommending that the legislature create a broad-based “Aging in Montana Committee” of citizens, relevant professionals and local and state elected officials to examine the issues and challenges created by an aging population.
4. Protecting and Enhancing Retirement Security for Montanans
• Public Employee Retirement Systems – Many of AARP Montana’s members are teachers and public employees who rely (or will rely) on the public employee retirement systems. AARP Montana will advocate that these retirement systems retain their defined benefit plans and assure solvency for the future.
• Elder Financial Exploitation – Elder Financial Exploitation is a more pervasive problem than many think. Accordingly, elder financial exploitation should be prosecuted as a crime worse than average theft. AARP Montana will fight for laws that strengthen the prosecution of elder abuse of all kinds.
• Energy Assistance – In Montana, many low income seniors rely on the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) to get through the cold months. AARP Montana will support full funding of LIEAP and other bills that help consumers with the cost of utilities.
5. Helping more Montanans Access Health Care
• Health Coverage for the Uninsured – Over 170,000 Montanans are currently uninsured. The expansion of Medicaid, paid 100% with federal funds for the next 3 years, will cover around 70,000 Montanans. AARP Montana will advocate for programs that help Montanans get health care coverage.
• Prohibiting Excess Health Insurance Premium Increases – AARP Montana will support legislation that gives the Montana Insurance Commissioner the ability to review health insurance rate increases and deny excessive rate increases.
• Affordable Prescription Drug Coverage – The cost of prescription drugs is increasing at a much higher rate compared to inflation. Because it is so important for seniors to be able to afford medications, AARP Montana helped start Big Sky Rx -- funded with a voter approved increase in the tobacco tax. AARP Montana will continue to support this vital program.
• Medical Homes – The concept of medical homes to better coordinate care for patients is saving health care dollars elsewhere in the nation. AARP Montana will support legislation to create a medical homes system in Montana.
6. Protecting the Rights of Montana Voters
• Oppose voter ID laws - AARP has a long-standing policy on ensuring that Americans are not unduly burdened when voting and has consistently urged opposition to unreasonable identification requirements that discourage or prevent citizens from voting.
• Opportunity to vote – AARP supports Montana’s Election Day voter registration law.
“AARP Montana is the voice of 50+ Montanans at the State Capitol. Our advocacy efforts during the legislative session are effective because of the efforts of AARP volunteers statewide,” said Bruck. “This was proven last session when volunteers made over 30,000 separate contacts to legislators to save Big Sky Rx -- including postcards, phone calls, faxes and e-mails. Montanans all across the state made their voices heard and ultimately made the positive difference. This session we are asking AARP Montana members to contact their legislators early and often.”
AARP is urging Montanans to ask their legislators to support the 50+ population and critical aging issues by supporting the AARP Montana 2013 legislative agenda. Montanans can contact their legislators via phone at 406-444-4800 or via email through www.leg.mt.gov/message.
[Photo courtesy of Tracy Elizabeth/Flickr]