AARP Pennsylvania today said that while Governor Corbett’s 2013-14 budget proposal released today increases state spending for programs helping older adults remain at home, the plan lacks forward-looking solutions to other issues of interest to the nation’s fourth-largest senior population.
More Money for Home and Community-Based Care, But Continued Raid of Lottery Funds
On one hand, AARP Pennsylvania Advocacy Director Ray Landis applauded the Governor’s decision to commit an additional $50 million to lottery-funded programs that have been neglected for years and have developed waiting lists for services.
“Dedicating $50 million in new revenues for home and community-based programs for seniors represents an important first step towards improving the balance between nursing home care and less expensive alternatives that allow older adults to remain at home,” he said.
Landis reiterated that AARP neither supports nor opposes the concept of private management of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Whether additional revenues are made available through a private management firm or through the efforts of existing lottery employees, AARP’s interests are based solely on ensuring that any changes maximize revenues available to existing lottery-funded programs that provide essential assistance to older adults statewide.
Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget proposal also continues the disturbing trend of raiding the Lottery Fund to fill holes in the state Medicaid budget. The Governor’s budget recommends shifting another $309 million in lottery proceeds in 2013-14 to the state Medicaid budget. Including this year’s proposal, more than $1.3 billion in lottery proceeds will have been transferred to the Medicaid program over the last six years.
“AARP continues to believe that Medicaid nursing home expenses should return to the General Fund so the Lottery Fund can fulfill its intended purpose—providing essential assistance to help older adults remain at home,” he said.
Lack of Support for Medicaid Expansion
Landis said AARP is particularly disappointed that the Governor’s budget proposal does not advocate for expanding Medicaid eligibility to residents with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (138 percent with the 5 percent income disregard), as set forth in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
He said expanding Medicaid eligibility means Pennsylvania has an opportunity to provide health care coverage to an estimated 542,000 uninsured residents by 2022 at no cost to the state for the first three years and no more than 10 percent of the cost in the future. Pennsylvania taxpayers will also find savings after expanding Medicaid due in large part to reducing the need for other medical service programs that are currently paid for entirely by the state.
“We believe everyone should have access to affordable health care,” Landis said. “That includes millions of 50 to 64-year-olds who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare and have lost their jobs, are struggling to find new ones and can't get affordable health care. These middle-aged adults are more likely to face the onset of health conditions that if left untreated could inevitably increase their need for health and long-term care services.”
Future Transportation Funding Must Reflect Needs of Older Adults
Landis added that while the Governor’s budget address outlined a mechanism for transportation funding, the proposal made little mention of the changing transportation needs of older Pennsylvanians-- particularly in suburban and rural areas of the state. Research shows that by 2030, almost one in four state residents will be over age 65.
“Any transportation plan must address limited or nonexistent public transportation in suburban and rural areas where most older residents live,” he said. “According to an AARP survey, 60 percent of people age 50 and above do not have public transportation within a 10-minute walk of their home, creating a mismatch between communities designed almost exclusively for cars and a growing population that will not drive.”
Pension Reform Plan Threatens Seniors’ Financial Security
Landis said that while AARP is pleased the Governor has chosen not to include current retirees in his pension reform proposal, the association is concerned with the suggestion of reducing benefits for current workers and near retirees. Altering benefits, even on a forward-going basis, is likely to cause prolonged legal battles and threaten financial security for seniors in retirement.
He said AARP is also troubled by proposals to move our state teachers, public safety workers, and health professionals to a 401(k) type program, as this move would provide lesser benefits that cost taxpayers more money to provide. Pension plans like the one Pennsylvania currently offers represent a sound investment for taxpayers and vital to state economies.
“Thousands of Pennsylvania teachers and public employees have consistently made their pension payments, on time and in full,” he said. “We can’t change the rules at the end of the game, especially when they didn’t cause this problem.”
Landis added that AARP Pennsylvania stands ready to provide any assistance necessary to help the Corbett Administration and members of the General Assembly develop a final 2013-14 state spending plan by the state’s constitutionally-mandated June 30 deadline.