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Health Care and Consumer Issues Top AARP Texas Legislative Agenda in 2015

For the 2015 legislative session that convenes today, AARP Texas will engage with lawmakers on a wide-ranging agenda of health care and consumer issues that matter to Texans age 50 and up.

State Capitol Building in downtown Austin, Texas
Brandon Seidel

While big topics like the state budget and taxes are on our plates, we’re already talking to legislators about a host of nonpartisan proposals related to family caregiving, quality nursing homes, surprise medical billing, retirement security, and predatory payday lending.

AARP Texas Director Bob Jackson will lead an advocacy team of policy experts who know their way around the Capitol. Among them are: Amanda Fredriksen, Trey Berndt, Joe Sánchez, and Tim Morstad. In addition, any number of AARP volunteers like Ollie Besteiro, the AARP Texas state president, will be present throughout the 140-day session.

Here’s an overview of some of the issues we’re discussing with legislators:

Supporting family caregivers:
To support the more than 3 million unpaid family caregivers in Texas, AARP urges lawmakers to enact the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act. The proposal aims to ensure that caregivers know what to do to safely look after loved ones when they’re discharged from a hospital. Among other things, the act requires hospitals provide an explanation of medical tasks that a caregiver will perform at home.

Reforming payday and auto title lending practices:
Consumers are getting trapped by the abusive lending practices of payday and auto title lenders who issue loans with APRs of 500 percent or more. Most major Texas cities have passed local laws regulating payday lending, but a statewide solution is needed. AARP supports reasonable and just reform of the industry.

Helping faraway family with guardianship powers:

When plans are not formally in place for someone’s care, family caregivers—or guardians—can get caught in jurisdictional tangles, especially if crossing state lines is involved. AARP encourages Texas legislators to approve a set of rules to make it easier for family caregivers. It’s called the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, and it’s already passed in other states.

Protecting nursing home residents:
Reports show that some Texas nursing homes are plagued by high staff turnover, frequently put residents at risk of getting pressure sores, and inappropriately give anti-psychotic medications to their residents. To improve nursing home quality, AARP supports recommendations offered by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission to impose serious sanctions against nursing homes that have serious and repeat violations.

Eliminating surprise medical billing:
What charges are appropriate when insured patients are treated in hospital emergency rooms? This is an important issue for lawmakers to consider. Hospitals agree to take a patients’ insurance, but not all the doctors and other providers who work at the facility are bound to that agreement. Too often, the result for the patient is a surprise bill. In Texas, consumers currently have few rights to challenge a surprise medical bill, also known as a “balance bill.” AARP supports reforms that limit surprise medical billing and that take consumers out of billing disputes between insurers and health care providers.

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