Public attention in Harrisburg this week centered on the on-going controversy about Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the behind-the-scenes negotiations to resolve Pennsylvania’s state budget impasse. These issues garnered the headlines, but with the General Assembly continuing to work while awaiting an opportunity to consider a state budget proposal, there were other things being talked about in the halls of the Capitol.
The House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee approved three bills to help lower-income Pennsylvanians get prescription drug assistance from the lottery-funded PACE and PACENET programs.
- House Bill 777, sponsored by Representative Seth Grove of York County: will allow individuals who are already enrolled in either PACE or PACENET to maintain eligibility for the program in 2016 even if the 1.7% Social Security cost-of-living increase they received in January 2015 put their earnings over the income limits for the program. This provision helps over 2,000 Pennsylvanians.
- House Bill 493, sponsored by Representative Neil Goodman of Schuylkill County: will exclude State Veterans benefits from counting as income toward the PACE and PACENET limits.
- House Bill 170, sponsored by Representative Curt Sonney of Erie County: will exclude interest earned on US Savings Bonds from counting as income toward the PACE and PACENET limits.
All three bills, which are supported by consumer groups including AARP, now go to the full House for consideration.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee unanimously approved HB 1329, the CARE Act, sponsored by Representative Hal English of Allegheny County, and sent it to the full Senate for final consideration. Having already passed the House of Representatives, Pennsylvania is poised to become the 19 th state to offer family caregivers a way to get the information and instruction they need to better to take care of their loved ones after a hospital discharge. AARP has been advocating for caregivers across the nation and, here in the Commonwealth, we are happy to see movement in the legislature to help Pennsylvanians as they care for their loved ones.
The State Senate gave final approved to HB 753, sponsored by Representative Linda Schlegal Culver of Northumberland and Snyder Counties, which establishes the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Council. The legislation is now on the Governor’s desk, and he is expected to sign it in the coming days. The new Long-Term Care Council will give consumer advocates, providers, and state officials a forum to discuss issues and make recommendations about one of the most vexing and expensive concerns faced by Pennsylvania families.
Most Pennsylvanians have done little planning for a situation where they require long term services and supports. But with the costs of a stay in a nursing home now approaching $100,000 a year, the financial burden of long term care is something few families can afford. The Council will look at how to make long term care more accessible and affordable for Pennsylvanians and, most importantly, how more people can get these services in their homes and communities.
Meanwhile back in your community….
Not all issues of interest to Pennsylvania are discussed in Capitol buildings, whether in Harrisburg or Washington, DC. More and more local governments are recognizing the changing demographics in our society and are addressing how to make their cities, counties, boroughs, and townships more adaptable to the changing needs of their residents.
It’s no secret that Pennsylvania is growing older. We already have the 4 th oldest average age in the nation, and the 85+ population is the fastest growing age group. Older Pennsylvanians have unique needs, particularly when it comes to transportation and housing, and communities across the Commonwealth are looking for ways to adapt.
The City of Philadelphia received national recognition as a designated age-friendly city by the World Health Organization in 2012 and the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County joined that exclusive group of 70 United States communities this year. Philadelphia has produced a comprehensive report of its progress and Pittsburgh recently held its first meeting, sponsored by AARP and the Southwest Pennsylvania Partnership on Aging (SWPPA), to begin its planning stage.
This doesn’t mean that all the work is going on in our biggest cities, however. Local governments of all shapes and sizes are looking at ways to make their communities better places for Pennsylvanians of all ages. For instance, volunteer AARP State President Jim Palmquist is deeply involved in Lower Macungie Township in Lehigh County to ensure that residents have safe sidewalks to walk to shopping and physicians’ offices; a planning commission in York is hard at work to make the downtown area more walkable; and residents of Avalon and Bellevue in Allegheny County tested crosswalk lights to ensure there was enough time for individuals to cross the streets.
This is just a small sample of the work going on throughout Pennsylvania – and it will continue and increase over the coming years, as the reality of the changing needs of our population becomes more apparent.
“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.