By Andrea Meyer
March was an active month for AARP Oregon in the state legislature. Our Legislative Advocacy Volunteers explained AARP Oregon priorities to nearly 30 lawmakers during our first-ever “virtual” lobby day. Priority issues include:
Workplace Age Discrimination Task Force. HB 2938 would establish a task force to identify and evaluate the impacts of age discrimination in the workplace and establish policy recommendations for the legislature to consider. With a balanced representation of consumers, unions and businesses, this task force would address the unique legal challenges in bringing an age discrimination case (made harder by a US Supreme Court case). At the end of the day, we want to level the playing field when it comes to discrimination claims, no matter whether it is age, race, gender, religion or other protected classes.
HB 2938 is now in the Joint Committee on Ways & Means and because it establishes a task force, will likely remain there until near the end of the session when the Committee will evaluate and decide which task force bills to fund.
Nursing Home COVID-19 Immunity. We testified against HB 2638, a proposal that would have given immunity to any business, including long-term care facilities if they made even reasonable efforts to comply with just one COVID-19 state or federal regulation (not even all). We are pleased that after a public hearing, the House Judiciary Committee chose not to proceed further.
On the Senate side, SB 780 would give legal immunity from claims of negligence to medical entities and providers if the claim relates to compliance with COVID-19 rules. Unfortunately, the original proposal would have included long-term care medical providers so we activated our member activists to oppose SB 780. All of our advocacy paid off and the amended version removed long-term care facilities and medical providers. As a result, we testified that the proposed amendment addressed our primary concerns. The bill has yet to move out of Senate Judiciary so we will be watching it closely.
Prescription Drug Costs
We know prescription drug costs hit all our members, indeed all Oregonians, and fighting Rx Greed continues to be a priority for AARP. We testified in support of SB 844, which would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) that would conduct an affordability review, requiring manufacturers to justify either a high price increase or a high launch price for a new drug. If after review, which would allow for public input and advice from a large Stakeholder Council, the Board finds a given drug’s price is excessive, it has the authority to set a rate. SB 844 just moved out of Senate Health Care.
We helped draft HB 2336 and in support; it would establish a standard definition of “visitability” in the Oregon Residential Specialty Code as part of our work on Age-Friendly Oregon. We support SB 199, which would make sweeping updates and improvements to Oregon’s Advanced Directive Law.
There is so much more we have been doing this session:
- As part of our Age-Friendly efforts, we helped draft HB 2336 and testified in support; it would establish a standard definition of “visitability” in the Oregon Residential Specialty Code.
- We supported SB 199, which would make sweeping updates and improvements to Oregon’s Advance Directive law and we support the amended version moving forward.
- We support efforts to make permanent in Oregon law access to telehealth medicine.
- We testified in support HB 2394, which would require long-term care facilities to create isolation plans.
- We supported HB 2327, a broad disaster preparedness bill for long-term care facilities to address future pandemic or natural disasters (it creates a Long Term Care Emergency Preparedness and Response Team and our advocacy resulted in the addition of a consumer representative).
- We succeeded in amending SB 288, the Governor’s broader natural disaster preparedness proposal, with the addition of “older Oregonians” to a list of stakeholder groups that would require notification to and coordination with in the event of a natural disaster.
- In April, we will be testifying on the Oregon Human Services Department’s budget for senior services.
Action You Can Take
If you haven’t already, please join our action alert program so you can receive our calls to action and let both your state senator and representative know that as an AARP member and constituent you care about important policy issues in the Oregon legislature. www.aarp.org/getinvolved
Andrea Meyer is the AARP Oregon Government Relations Director.
Photo: Joyce De Monnin