By Mary Bethel -- Associate State Director
The General Assembly is in full swing, and has already voted to block Medicaid expansion. AARP will continue to fight for uninsured members and is urging the state to create a health benefits exchange to provide coverage information for those who can be helped by the new federal law.
NC is working on these major priorities:
Key Legislative Agenda Items for AARP North Carolina for 2013
- Increase funding for programs to enable older adults to stay in their homes including support for the Home and Community Care Block Grant.
- Increase support for family caregivers including restoring funding for Project CARE which supports family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's.
- Ensure that the interest of our members are protected in revenue (tax) reform provisions.
- Work to implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act including expanding Medicaid eligibility and establishing a Health Benefits Exchange.
- Protect the interests of consumers 50+ in the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy and work to educate consumers on how to lower their energy costs.
- Support efforts to promote employment opportunities for older worker and to ensure older workers receive retraining and other opportunities to enhance their skills.
- Maintain optional Medicaid services for older and disabled adults.
- Oppose legislation that would promote predatory lending practices.
- Ensure Voter I.D. legislation does not impose undue burden on older and disabled adults.
- Support providing options for persons currently living in adult care homes who could be safely and adequately cared for in the community.
- Support reinstituting the Study Commission on Aging to study issues related to aging and to make recommendations for action to the N.C. General Assembly.
- Increase funding for adult protective services.
More in-depth analysis of upcoming debate on support for community care and caregivers, as well as tax reform follows:
Support Funding for the Home and Community Care
Block Grant and Programs to Help Family Caregivers
As the older population in our state continues to grow, the demand for services to help people stay in their homes, including support for family caregivers, is increasing.
AARP supports increased funding for the Home and Community Care Block Grant which funds home and community-based services for people 60 years of age and older, especially the so-called near poor who are not eligible for Medicaid. In addition, we support increasing the availability of supportive services to help family caregivers.
- More than a quarter of older North Carolinians living in the community have two or more physical or mental conditions that make it difficult for them to do activities such as walking, bathing, and dressing.
- The population of older adults in need of supportive services in their homes continues to grow. Currently 53 counties in the state have more people 60 and older than individuals between the ages of 0 -17. This number will group to 86 counties by 2025.
- The NC General Assembly established the Home and Community Care Block Grant, which combines federal and state funding, in 1992 to aid older adults and their family caregivers.
- Key services funded by the Block Grant are home delivered meals, in-home aides, adult day care/adult day health care, transportation assistance, and respite care for family caregivers.
- The Block Grant serves as the primary funding source for non-Medicaid funded home and community based services for older adults.
- The Block Grant helps those with great need. For SFY 2011-2012, 49% of persons receiving Block Grant services lived alone and 62% were age 75 or older. 45% reported income at or below the poverty level.
- The state is losing ground in its efforts to help frail older adults in the community through the Block Grant. Between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2012, there was a 9.4% reduction in the number of persons served through major Block Grant services.
- As of January 2013, the largest waiting lists were for services that help the most frail elderly such as home-delivered meals and in-home aide services. There were an estimated 13,000 unmet service needs in the state in January.
- Family caregivers provide at least 80% of all long-term care services to older adults in the state.
- Families need to be supported in their caregiving role. The “caregiving career of a family member is often of long duration. In the case of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, its lasts an average of eight years.
Support for Home and Community Care Block Grant:
Support for increased funding for the Block Grant and for programs to help caregivers have consistently been one of the top requests of aging advocates in the State for the last decade. In addition to AARP, numerous state level groups and associations including the N.C. Coalition on Aging, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging, the Senior Tar Heel Legislature, the NC Association on Aging, and the NC Association of Area Agencies on Aging advocate support for the Block Grant.
In December of 2010, AARP North Carolina polled North Carolinians age 50 and over on several issues expected to be before the N.C. General Assembly in 2011, including funding for the Home and Community Care Block Grant. 57% of those polled indicated they supported additional funding for home and community based services even if it meant an increase in taxes.
Tax Reform Measures – Ensure that Senior
Are Not Disproportionately Impacted
Tax policies that benefit older adults could be eliminated under tax reform measures being proposed.
Any tax reform measures passed by the N.C. General Assembly should not disproportionately impact older adults.
- Plans have been proposed to eliminate the corporate and personal income taxes and to increase other taxes to make up the $12 million in lost revenue.
- Proposals include expanding the sales taxes to include a broad range of services including restoring the state’s share of the sales tax on groceries.
- Under proposals being presented, many older adults would end up paying higher taxes.
- Tax policies that benefit seniors such as the exemption of Social Security income, partial exemption of pension income, and higher standard deduction would go away with the elimination of the personal income tax.
- Due to targeted tax policies, one in five seniors do not owe federal income taxes.
- Low and moderate income seniors, especially those who do not currently pay income taxes, would face the largest increase under a tax plan that requires an increased reliance on the sales tax.
- 10% of North Carolina seniors currently have income below the poverty level of $10,778. Plans being proposed would increase economic hardship and push more seniors into poverty. At particular risk are the 25% of seniors who have incomes between 100% and 199% of the poverty level.
- An increased reliance on sales taxes would hit retirees hard because they spend a greater proportion of their retirement income on consumption items such as food.
- Eliminating the personal and corporate income taxes could reduce state funding for programs which provide services to older adults. The Division of Aging and Adult Services reports that there are waiting lists across the state for programs that help seniors stay in their homes such as home –delivered meals and in-home aide services. There were an estimated 13,000 unmet service needs in the state in January 2013 for home and community based services.
- Eliminating the personal and corporate income taxes could create pressure to raise local property taxes and/or limit property tax exemptions (Homestead Property Tax Exemption) that are designed to provide relief to senior homeowners whose income does not exceed $28,100. Property tax exemptions provided at least $50 million of benefits to older and disabled adults in North Carolina in 2010.