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When Scott Buell, 70, of Raleigh, envisioned his retirement, he never imagined he would be going in front of state lawmakers to advocate on issues.
But that’s exactly what Buell, a retired chemist, has been doing as an AARP North Carolina advocacy volunteer.
“I like it because I’m learning about the issues that are important to people here in North Carolina, and I’m able to have a part in pushing things forward,” he says.
The work required Buell to get out of his comfort zone a bit, but he notes that AARP provided the training he needed to be effective.
“You’re not being asked to do something cold turkey,” Buell says. “AARP has the information and resources to help you along.”
Buell is one of more than 100 nonpartisan AARP advocacy volunteers in North Carolina who play an important role in pushing for legislation to help improve the lives of older residents.
During the 2023 legislative session, volunteers will support bills to help workers save for retirement, to improve access to health care and to prevent unnecessary guardianships.
AARP’s goals for the year include backing legislation to create a state-facilitated retirement savings program for private-sector workers who don’t have such a plan through their employers.
A measure to do so was included in the House version of the budget in 2021, but it didn’t survive when the budget went to the state Senate.
“That’s further than we’ve ever gotten with this legislation,” says Chris Brandenburg, AARP North Carolina’s advocacy director. “We want to build upon that momentum, and we feel confident we can do that.”
Packed 2023 agenda
In March, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed into law, legislation to expand Medicaid to more than 600,000 uninsured North Carolinians.
AARP North Carolina strongly supported extending the government health insurance program to cover adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $20,000 for an individual in 2023.
Medicaid expansion will bring about $500 million in federal funding per month to the state and help bolster rural hospitals that provide critical care to underserved areas, Brandenburg says.
North Carolina is the 40th state to opt to expand Medicaid. As of mid-April, the state had not yet announced when the expanded coverage would begin.
AARP also supports a rewrite of state law to prevent unnecessary guardianships by requiring alternatives to be considered first.
Other top issues include removing barriers to the construction of more affordable housing; more state funding for adult protective services; adequate funding for home- and community-based services to support adults who want to age in place; and increased wages and better training for the direct care workforce.
AARP North Carolina is seeking more volunteers to advocate on these issues. Opportunities include everything from emailing lawmakers to writing letters to the editor or testifying at committee hearings.
Michelle Crouch is a writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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