Legislature’s clock is ticking on age-related issues

When the 2016 session of the Legislature convenes at the capitol in Olympia, AARP says lawmakers will face issues such as restoring hearing-aid coverage in Medicaid.
When the 2016 session of the Legislature convenes at the capitol in Olympia, AARP says lawmakers will face issues such as restoring hearing-aid coverage in Medicaid.

First, the Legislature needs to wrestle with the impact of Initiative 1366 decided by a very small number of voters during the November election. A little over 19 percent of registered voters in the state voted to require legislators to have a two-thirds majority vote on all tax issues, and if not, the sales tax is dropped by 1 percent. What does this mean? It means $1.5 billion less money, each year for programs and services for our communities across the state.
Second, many of the legislators are up for re-election. With such weighty issues as funding education, finding new sources of revenue and preparing for their own election campaigns, it will be difficult to introduce extensive amounts of new and complex legislation while still ending the session on time.
AARP’s work for this legislative session began months ago by building and strengthening relationships with our partner organization and coalitions and focusing advocacy on three areas:
• The CARE Act. AARP is working in states across the nation to enact the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which would help family caregivers as their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home. Recognizing the critical role family caregivers play in helping keep their loved one at home and out of costly institutions, the CARE Act features three important provisions. (1) The name of the family caregiver is recorded when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. (2) The family caregiver is notified if the loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home. (3) The facility must provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks — such as medication management, injections, wound care, and transfers – that the family caregiver will perform at home.
• Financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. The incidence of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults is on the rise. AARP is working with the State Long Term Care Ombudsman’s Program, the state attorney general and the King County prosecutor’s office to amend the criminal statutes to give stiffer penalties to those who choose to financially exploit vulnerable adults.
• Restore hearing aid coverage in Medicaid. Hearing loss is a public health issue, as untreated hearing impairment increases the risk of costly health outcomes from falls, disability, cognitive impairment and dementia. Nearly 25-percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50-percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. AARP will push to restore the Medicaid adult hearing hardware and services benefit discontinued in 2010
AARP’s advocacy and outreach efforts are not possible without you. Last year, your support helped us pass and create the “Washington Small Business Retirement Marketplace,” which will give more than 1.1 million Washingtonians a chance for a more secure and independent retirement .
Your voice is important, so get involved. Visit www.aarp.org/wa for the latest on what’s happening at the state capitol. If you are interested in attending hearings in Olympia, volunteering your time or contacting your legislator, please e-mail aarpwa@aarp.org or call us at 1-866-227-7457.

Cathy MacCaul, who wrote this article, is AARP Washington’s advocacy director.