By Danny Harris, Advocacy Director, AARP Utah
The dust is beginning to settle after our state’s annual legislative session came to a close last Thursday. Before we recap, I want to thank all of the great AARP advocates who got engaged, sent messages to their legislators and joined us at the Capitol. Hundreds of members joined us at the Capitol for Democracy Day and to rally in support of Healthy Utah and many more sent nearly 15,000 emails to legislators urging them to do the right thing with Healthy Utah. Thank you all for your continued support and engagement. I can’t stress enough that without your involvement we could not do the work we do!
Now for the highlights!
- Healthy Utah – Utahns made it loud and clear this year that the Healthy Utah issue is not going away. Despite attempts to sweep it under the rug and attempts to offer sub-par plans, Utahns recognized what was happening and demanded that action be taken. Thanks to you and advocates on the Hill, this issue hasn’t gone away. The Governor and legislative leaders agreed that they will work together and will have the issue resolved before the end of July this year. I will stay actively involved in the continuing discussions to ensure that every Utahn has access to affordable, quality health coverage. Please stay engaged over the coming months and we will make sure to inform you of how you can make your voice heard.
- Additional funding for aging programs – We were very successful this year in advocating for additional funding for critical programs for older Utahns. Programs like Meals on Wheels, caregiver support programs, the Aging Waiver and Adult Protective Services received over $900,000 in new funding this year. These programs will help more Utahns live independently in their homes. Not only is that where most of us prefer to grow older, but it is also the most cost-effective on our pocketbooks and on the state government’s budget. These are wins for everyone.
- A call to improve retirement security for more Utahns – We were also successful in passing a study resolution that calls together community stakeholders to help find solutions for the more than half of private-sector workers who don’t have a retirement savings vehicle through their employer. More and more Utahns are reaching retirement without a pension, with little personal savings and relying heavily on their Social Security benefits. We can do better as a state!
There is always more work to be done. Throughout the remainder of the year we will be working to put in place regulations that support family caregivers who are strained from the challenges that caregiving presents. As explained above, we will work for mechanisms to help more Utahns be financially prepared for retirement. And with your help, we will work to close the “coverage gap” for all Utahns and ensure everyone can see a doctor when they need to without risking bankruptcy. Stay tuned as we keep the ball rolling on these important issues!