With the new year comes another new Utah legislative session, and AARP Utah is ready to advocate for key issues critical to residents 50 and older. AARP priorities in 2015 will focus on policies that help protect the health and financial security of Utahns who need it the most.
“With 212,000 members in Utah, AARP is the state’s largest advocacy organization looking out for the interests of individuals age 50 and older,” said AARP Utah State Director Alan Ormsby. “As we look ahead to the 2015 legislative session, we plan to use the power of our collective voice to push for policies that help improve the lives of all Utah residents, and particularly those over age 50.”
AARP Utah’s 2015 legislative agenda includes:
Access to affordable, quality health care for all Utahns will again be the top priority of AARP Utah. Due to a Supreme Court decision in the summer of 2012 related to the Affordable Care Act that ruled that states are not required to expand Medicaid, meaning each state will have a coverage gap for low-income residents who do not earn enough to qualify for a tax credit on the health insurance marketplace yet do not qualify for Medicaid. In other words, they don’t meet Medicaid’s eligibility requirements (which excludes childless adults, among other categories) and make too little to receive the tax credit. Utah is expected to have 64,500 people in this category who won’t have access to any health insurance if we continue to do nothing. We will work this session to ensure that every Utahn has access to affordable health care. AARP Utah supports Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah Plan as it completely closes the “coverage gap” and does so utilizing the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) which will bring Utah taxpayer dollars back to the state. If the Healthy Utah plan is passed we will continue to work to ensure consumers are not overly burdened by cost sharing requirements, work requirements or other possible barriers to access care.
Currently 53% of Utahns don’t have access to a retirement savings vehicle (401k, IRA, etc.) through their employer.Saving money is key to financial security in retirement! Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of retirement income—the average monthly benefit is only about $1300 a month—and investments, though important, carry risk. We support legislation that will create a program that will allow workers to save in a Roth IRA through automatic payroll deductions. Increasing access to a trusted financial service will increase the level of savings for retirees, just like our 529 plans have increased savings for college educations for Utah’s students.
Social Security Taxation
Utah is one of few states that taxes the Social Security benefits of its citizens. We support legislation that will exempt an individual from state taxes if Social Security comprises 75% or more of their income. This will help ease the burden on Utah’s lowest-income retirees. This legislation will also extend the Retirement Income Tax Credit which is a critical source of tax relief for Utah’s seniors.
Healthy Utah – We will work to secure the necessary appropriations to allow Utah to move forward with an expansion of coverage for low-income Utahns.
Aging Waiver - We will advocate for funding to eliminate the waiting list on the state’s Medicaid Aging Waiver. This program allows older Utahns to “age in place” rather than prematurely moving to a skilled nursing facility. Current estimates show there are roughly 100 seniors on the waiting list who currently qualify to be in a skilled nursing facility under Medicaid, but who could and prefer to stay in their homes at between a third and a sixth of the cost to the state depending on benefit levels. Eliminating the waiting list would require an appropriation of $300,000.
Caregiving and Nutrition (Meals on Wheels) - We will encourage the state to continue to fund programs that support caregivers including renewing and expanding the funding the Area Agencies on Aging received last year to grow these programs. We support the request in the Governor’s budget to increase nutrition funding by $150,000 and caregiving funding by $100,000.
Adult Protective Services (APS) – This program has been underfunded since the recent recession when nearly all state programs underwent major budget cuts. Currently, APS staff is taking on large numbers of exploitation cases and are unable to give each case the attention it deserves. It is time to ensure this program has more of the resources it needs. We support the request in the Governor’s budget to better staff Adult Protective Services with an appropriation of $229,700.
Issues to watch
Air Quality – This is an issue that disproportionately affects our membership. The health effects of poor air quality are a significant problem in Utah which dramatically reduces our quality of life. We will be looking to support solutions that are fair to consumers and can reasonably affect the concern.
Utilities – We will be watching for utility legislation that could potentially be a burden to Utahns who are struggling to pay their utility bills. We believe utility rates should continue to be fair and affordable.
State legislators care about their constituents and will listen to the voices of the voters who put them in office. Do you want to become an AARP activist on issues that matter to you? Go to aarp.org/getinvolved. Are you interested in Utah advocacy? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for advocacy updates. This year’s Utah legislative session begins on Monday, January 26th and runs for 45 days. State lawmakers make decisions that affect your day-to-day life, so we encourage everyone to stay informed about what’s happening on Capitol Hill. For information about legislators, bills, committee meetings, and everything else that happens during the legislative session, go to le.utah.gov. You can make a difference!