AARP Texas, the leading organization for older adults, has announced its top priorities and funding requests for the 2023 legislative session. The requests include a call for nursing home reform, steps to bolster utilities for the medically vulnerable, and action to address hunger and adult financial exploitation. The priorities aim to help Texas face the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly aging population.
“AARP Texas seeks a bright future with livable communities where Texans can thrive as they age, which means preparing today for tomorrow’s aging population,” said AARP Texas Director Tina Tran. “I’m confident that these legislative requests, if accomplished, will help Texans recover from the pandemic and assist our growing state in meeting the demands of the future.”
Nursing Home Reform: AARP Texas is calling for greater transparency in the allocation of public dollars going to Texas nursing homes. AARP Texas will: advocate for full transparency in nursing home ownership, seek changes to ensure that public dollars go toward direct care of nursing home residents rather than nursing home profits, and will urge that any new funding be dedicated to staffing needs.
Utilities to protect the most vulnerable: While the Texas legislature took initial steps in response to Winter Storm Uri in 2021 that left millions without power and 246 people dead, most of them older Texans, additional action is needed to protect our most vulnerable from extended power outages. AARP Texas will advocate for Texas to create a funding mechanism to help with the cost of emergency backup power for income-eligible medically needy Texas households. Action also is needed to require long-term care facilities to have adequate back-up power.
Interagency Council on Aging: With one out of every five Texans being over 65 by 2050, AARP Texas will advocate for the creation of an Interagency Council on Aging. The Council should include representatives from state and federal agencies, higher education institutions, and aging interest groups.
Connecting Texans: Last session, the Legislature created the Office of Broadband Development within the Office of Comptroller of Public Accounts. AARP Texas will advocate in 2023 for increased funding to support this office and ensure that Texans across the state have access to high-speed internet.
Full practice authority for Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs): APRNs provide high-quality health care and, as a result, they comprise almost half of the state’s primary care workforce and fill numerous other roles. Outdated licensing requirements prevent these highly trained medical professionals from providing care to the fullest potential of their training, making our health care system more costly. AARP Texas will advocate for ending these lifelong and expensive delegation requirements.
Revising the SNAP vehicle asset test: Eleven percent of older Texans face food insecurity. One of the best resources to address this is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Because of a burdensome requirement that places limits on the value of vehicles counted as an asset, some seniors do not qualify for the program. AARP Texas will advocate for removing or updating this requirement so more seniors can receive SNAP.
Access to medically tailored meals: For individuals who are low income and living in poverty, access to nutritious food and adequate health care is often unattainable. As a result, a decline in their health occurs, making it more costly for them and the State of Texas. Medically tailored meals designed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can help reduce this cost through delivery to individuals living with one or more chronic illnesses. AARP Texas will advocate for the creation of a pilot program, reimbursed by Medicaid, that provides these meals.
Remote ink notarization of will and estate documents: During the pandemic, Governor Abbott temporarily allowed Remote Ink Notarization (RIN) for will and estate documents. This allowed a notary to perform this practice virtually, and the clients to not have to travel for this service. This was a positive and popular provision. AARP Texas will advocate for a change in law to allow RIN as a permanent option for estate documents.
Greater flexibility in advance care documents: Many older adults do not have wills or advance care documents in place. Texas is one of four states that prohibit the use of alternatives to the state-promulgated medical power of attorney form. AARP Texas will advocate for allowing user-friendly medical power of attorney alternatives, such as “Five Wishes” and the American Bar Association’s “Giving Someone a Power of Attorney For Your Health Care: A Guide with an Easy-to-Use, Multi-State Form for All Adults.”
Data Privacy: Older adults are wary about their privacy online. AARP research finds that 34 percent of people 50 and older cite privacy concerns as a barrier to adopting new technology, like high-speed internet. Older Texans deserve to have confidence in the privacy of their data so they can live their best lives, from completing basic tasks to accessing essential services, like telehealth. AARP will support efforts to ensure that effective data privacy safeguards are in place.
Better funding for vital services: The 88th Legislature will benefit from a state budget surplus going into the session. AARP Texas will advocate for the Legislature to increase funding in these areas:
- Texas Health and Human Services budget to address needed staffing improvements. The department is severely understaffed, impacting the administration of Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Texas Health and Human Services budget for the Texas Lifespan Respite Care Program (TLRCP), expanding the availability of respite services for family members who care for a person of any age with a chronic health condition or disability.
- Adult Protective Services division budget for the Purchase Client Services program. This provides basic needs items, including mental health services, for senior adults facing abuse or neglect.
- Adult Protective Services division budget to address elderly financial exploitation. This provides additional specialized staff to investigate these cases.
- Texas Health and Human Services budget to address wages for community attendants. This workforce provides essential services for clients with disabilities, including assistance with daily needs like dressing, bathing, household chores, and errands so clients can live as independently as possible.