At the AARP Oregon State Office we hear almost weekly from a member who can’t afford prescription drugs and has to make the hard choice to skip a medication dose or cut the pill in order to make ends meet. That’s why we were especially pleased to help pass legislation during Oregon’s short session that will make the cost of drugs more “transparent” in our state.
This bill and several others passed through our advocacy efforts – and the help of members from all over Oregon. Many of you took action on these issues by communicating with your legislators, and we thank you very much for doing so! If you haven’t signed up to work with us on advocacy, make sure you go to www.aarp.org/getinvolved and sign up.
Here is a summary of what AARP Oregon worked on during the 2018 legislative session in Salem, and what the results were.
- Prescription drug prices – the prices of many prescription drugs have been increasing rapidly, which costs individuals with higher direct costs, higher co-pays, and higher insurance premiums. AARP Oregon worked with many stakeholders to pass House Bill 4005, which requires drug manufacturers to report information detailing why they raised their price if the increase is more than 10% a year. This legislation also establishes a task force to look into the other factors leading to high drug prices.
- Home Care Worker Training – AARP Oregon supported Senate Bill 1534 supporting greater quality of care by helping streamline and standardize training for home care and personal support workers through the Oregon Home Care Commission. Currently, there are no minimum training standards to be a home care or personal support worker through the commission and this bill would change that. Through an inclusive process stakeholders will be involved in helping to set those standards, and the commission will work to make sure quality trainings are accessible to home care and personal support workers throughout the state.
- Protecting Retirement Savings – Many Oregonians, especially low-wage workers, are saving for retirement for the first time ever, thanks to the new Oregon Saves program. Unfortunately, if these workers become unemployed and need to apply for Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), these retirement savings could disqualify them for short term help that would help them get by. AARP supported House Bill 4079, which prevents these retirement savings from disqualifying a person in need from TANF benefits.
- DHS Budget for Long Term Supports and Services (LTSS) – AARP Oregon and the Campaign for Oregon Seniors and People with Disabilities (COSPwD) worked to ensure sufficient funding for Oregon’s system of providing care and support to those who care for our vulnerable elders and adults with disabilities, providing choice, dignity and independence. No cuts to services were made during the session, and a small cost of living increase in long term care (LTC) provider reimbursement rates was enacted. In addition, House Bill 4162 passed with AARP’s support. This legislation extends for six years the long term care provider assessment that is used to generate Medicaid matching funds for home and community-based care. This legislation will guarantee stability in Medicaid LTC funding through 2026.
- Advance Directives – AARP Oregon fought hard for House Bill 4135, the update of the now dated Advance Directive form and process, a tool families use to ensure your health care wishes are known if you are unable to speak for yourself. The update will make the form more user-friendly so that more people will complete them and their designated providers can better meet their wishes.
- Expanding Affordable Housing Options - Most people want to remain in their homes and communities as they grow older. However, the availability of safe, secure and comfortable home is a major challenge in Oregon communities. During the 2018 legislation session AARP Oregon testified on behalf of major parts of House Bill 4007, which increases the “document recording fee” that raises about $30 million more for affordable housing programs. Note that AARP Oregon did not endorse the entire bill, because we felt the new tax subtraction for a first time home buyer savings account was poorly structured and not focused on helping people who need it the most. We did voice our concerns regarding this aspect of the bill.
- Small Donor Elections – AARP Oregon supported House Bill 4076, which would reduce the influence of large campaign contributions and allow for grassroots candidates to run viable campaigns for state office. The “Small Donor Elections” proposal would create a system of public matching for small contributions, so candidates don’t need to rely on large contributions to run viable campaigns, while also having strict accountability. This bill died in committee, but we expect it to return in 2019.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave – Nearly everyone needs paid family or medical leave at some point in their lives, whether it’s to care for a new child, an aging parent, or themselves. As workers struggle to balance caregiving with their job responsibilities, many end up facing economic hardship. Caregiving demands may even lead to adverse economic effects felt across years or a lifetime due to lost jobs, loss of health care coverage, missed raises, and reduced Social Security benefits. Legislation was drafted for the 2018 session, but legislators decided to create a special workgroup instead that will craft legislation for the 2019 session. AARP volunteers spoke to legislators during the session about why this issue is so important to older Oregonians. We remain committed to fighting for paid family and medical leave legislation in 2019.
On every piece of legislation, AARP worked with other stakeholders and legislators from both parties to work out the best policies for Oregon, and we thank them for their hard work. And for every one of you who took action on any of these bills, thank you for raising your voice! The foundation of AARP’s success is our members. Thank you for helping to make Oregon a better place for all to live.