By Cathy MacCaul, Advocacy Director
The 2020 State Legislative Session kicked off in Olympia in mid-January. And while it’s a “short session” this year (just 60-days), our elected lawmakers will tackle a number of key issues that will affect AARP’s members and their families. During the latter half of 2019, AARP Washington worked closely with legislators to lay the groundwork for our 2020 legislative priorities. Prescription drug legislation continues to be a prime objective at the state and federal level. We are also focused on improving the way Washington workers can save for retirement and fighting to keep programs running that root out and prosecute perpetrators of financial exploitation.
Consumers and Prescription Drugs
Nationwide, AARP state offices helped pass more than 30 legislative bills to help lower the cost of prescription medications, including here in Washington. However, the fight against pharmaceutical company greed is far from over. In the Evergreen State, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased by 57.8% between 2012 and 2017, while the yearly income for Washingtonians only increased by 9.9%. That is why 72% of older Americans say they are concerned about the cost of their medications, making it a priority for policymakers to act on Rx prices.
We’re working this session on several reforms to help lower drug costs for Washingtonians. That effort includes a suite of bills sponsored by Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) that would cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 per month (SB 6087); establish a prescription drug affordability board to review prices to see if maximum price caps are needed (SB 6088); provide a mechanism for the state to import prescription drugs from Canada (SB 6110); and create a centralized purchasing process for insulin, based on the current approach used to purchase childhood vaccines (SB 6113).
AARP is also supporting House Bill 2710 which would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to report the reasons behind dramatic price increases, and to justify high launch prices and price hikes of the 25 most prescribed drugs. House Bill 2662 would cap out-of-pocket costs to patients for insulin at $100 per month, and it would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.
For the very latest on these bills, visit www.aarp.org/StopRxGreedWA
Workers Need Ways to Save
According to a new survey from AARP, two-thirds (66%) of Washington registered voters feel anxious about having enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years – and for a good reason. AARP’s survey of voters ages 25 to 64 showed that more than a third (35%) have saved less than $25,000 for retirement. Almost one quarter (22%) have less than $5,000 saved.
Washingtonians are working as hard as ever, but many do not have a way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck. AARP’s survey shows that nearly all Washington voters (91%) believe it is very important to be able to save for retirement while working. Yet more than 1.1 million Washingtonians work for an employer that does not offer a retirement plan.
To help tackle Washington's retirement savings crisis, AARP is supporting House Bill 2516, the "Secure Choice Retirement Savings bill" sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) and Representative Davina Duerr (D- Bothell). HB2516 would create an easy way for workers to increase savings for future needs via simple paycheck deductions. Currently, ten states have signed a law creating this savings option. The benefit will give small businesses access to a low-cost, easy retirement savings option with no ongoing fees or risk to them or the state. Employees will have sole discretion about participating in the program. One added benefit of this program? The retirement accounts are entirely portable, following workers from job to job. Secure Choice will help over one million Washingtonians save for retirement with an automatic deduction from their paychecks, with pre-tax dollars, and each worker chooses how much to save. For the very latest on this bill, visit www.aarp.org/SaveToRetireWA
Fight Financial Exploitation
According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Report, in 2013, 13.1 million consumers suffered identity fraud – the second-highest level on record. Since 2009, Washington state has funded two Financial Fraud and Identity Theft Task Forces based in the Greater Puget Sound and Spokane County. These task forces bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, and financial institutions to conduct large-scale investigations of financial fraud, identity theft, and financial exploitation.
Funding for these programs expires June of this year. Two bills will run concurrently in the House (HB 2193) and the Senate (SB 6074) to reauthorize and expand the financial fraud identity and theft task forces crime investigation and prosecution program especially targeting senior financial exploitation crimes.
If you would like to be involved in our legislative efforts, sign up as an AARP Advocate at www.aarp.org/getinvolved to receive e-mail action alerts on the issues you care about. You can also stay up to date by visiting www.aarp.org/wa and following us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aarpwa.