2024 State Legislative Session Advances AARP Oregon Priorities

Posted on 03/13/24

Panoramic View of Oregon State Capital Building

AARP Oregon advocates for what is important to our members and Oregonians age 50+ and their families. With the help of our legislative advocate volunteers, AARP members, staff leadership and in concert with our partners, we worked tirelessly to advocate on a broad range of issues to improve the lives of older Oregonians and their families.
 
While this was a short 5-week session it was jam-packed with legislation important to AARP.  By the end of session, we had successfully advanced a number of important policy changes to help Oregonians 50+ (and stopped a few bad bills as well).

Consumer Protection: Updating Debt Collection Law (1595) WIN

Last session we supported efforts to update the Oregon debt collection law. That bill was not successful but we supported this revised version which successfully passed during this short session. HB 1595 updates Oregon’s debt collection law to protect wages and bank accounts at a level so families can cover essentials, increases the value of a family home that can be protected and gives legal protections to consumers if a debt collector wrongfully pursues a debt not owed.

Consumer Protection: Protecting Homeowners (HB 4058) WIN

HB 4058 addresses a new practice across the country of several real estate companies using a predatory business model to target older and financially insecure homeowners. These companies provide cash payments, typically between $300-$3,000, to homeowners in exchange for agreeing to exclusively utilize that company’s services to list their property at any time in the next 40 years. These contracts are then filed as a lien on the property, binding to the homeowner and heirs, complicating the ability to refinance or transfer property. If a homeowner wants to terminate the contract earlier than 40 years, they must pay a penalty equal to 3% of the market value of the property as determined by the company (equivalent to a commission). With our suggested amendments to the original bill, we supported HB 4058, brought forward by the Oregon Realtors and Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson (R).

Housing Stability & Choices (SB 1530 & SB 1537) WINS

One of the priorities this session at the Capitol was addressing the housing crisis. Continuing our commitment to affordable and accessible housing, we supported SB 1530 which provides additional funding for rent and eviction protection and homeless prevention. SB 1537 creates the Housing Accountability and Production Office and expands housing production, including low-income housing.

Reducing Prescription Drug Prices (SB 1508) WIN

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. All people with type 1 diabetes and many with type 2 diabetes require insulin to survive. From 2009 to 2019, the price of insulin has tripled even though there has been no change in the product. The result is many people ration their doses or go without, often with deadly consequences. In 2019, AARP Oregon supported a law to limit the out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $75 a month but it also included an annual adjustment based on CPI so today, the out-of-pocket cost is $85. We supported the two important changes SB 1508 makes to Oregon’s law. It caps the out-of-monthly cost to $35 a month and it removes the annual CPI adjustment so this rate will not increase over time. With this update, Oregon’s law will align with the monthly out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D enrollees.

SNAP Hot Meal Program (SB 1585) WIN

In 2020, nearly 9.5 million Americans ages 50 and older were food insecure. Food insecurity can lead to older adults engaging in economic trade-offs, sacrificing their food budget to pay for other necessities, such as rent or other housing costs, transportation, or medical bills. Many older Oregonians, people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness and who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are unable to prepare hot meals because they may not be able to easily shop, cook or store food. We supported SB 1585 which establishes a task force to analyze options available under federal waivers to maximize food choices including allowing benefits to be used to purchase hot foods and hot meals.

Expanding Caregiving – Agency with Choice (HB 4129) WIN

We know from our surveys that older Oregonians want to have high quality long-term care and well-trained care workers in their community. We know there is a health care workforce crisis and we know there is a critical, indeed growing, need for paid family caregivers. We supported HB 4129 which builds on our efforts to provide home and community based services that allow for consumer-directed care. It will provide important support to consumers, including assistance on caregiver payroll matters, which is currently handled by the consumers directly, and access to back-up caregivers. The bill does this while reinforcing what is very important to AARP: giving the consumer the right to select, approve, direct and train their direct support workers, as well as the choice whether to retain the direct support workers providing their care. This new program will run along with the Oregon Home Care Commission which provides a particularly valuable service to those consumers who have a family member, loved one, or friend who wants to step in to provide one-time caregiving services, but are not looking to build a career in caregiving. Both systems need to function to provide flexibility for all types of caregivers, be they temporary or those seeking professional support.

Protecting Residents in Adult Foster Homes (SB 1591) WIN

AARP Oregon joined with all the other advocates for seniors and people with disabilities to oppose legislation that would expand the number of residents in an adult foster home (AFH) from 5 to 7. We opposed this effort 5 years ago and our concerns remain the same. AFHs provide critical services to older Oregonians, allowing them to remain in a home-like setting. But they also have relatively few licensing requirements, including no specific required medical training or resident-to-staff ratio. Residential Care Facilities, which serve 6 or more residents, have many more regulatory and licensing requirements and provide protections to residents. Proponents testified that AFHs are facing financial hardship. We recognize, indeed support, an effort to update the very outdated Medicaid reimbursement funding that will help all AFHs financially. However, we cannot support addressing the financial challenges faced by AFHs through increasing the number of residents.

Funding Public Guardians (SB 5701) WIN

Oregon Public Guardian (OPG) program serves an essential function and provides critical protection to some of the most vulnerable Oregonians, most especially older Oregonians. Public Guardians make decisions that can connect individuals with services when they are not able to do so on their own, including housing assistance and health care treatment. OPG, with a growing waitlist, is in critical need of funding to keep up with current demands. We supported this effort in its original bill and we are pleased it was added to the huge end-of-session budget bill, SB 5701 is funding to provide 5 additional staff positions.

Property Foreclosure Protection (HB 4056) WIN

In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it is unconstitutional for a county--after it forecloses on a property for failure to pay taxes and subsequently sells the home--to keep the profit (surplus) from the home. Almost 20 states, including Oregon, have been doing this. Because this affects older homeowners who encounter financial hardships, health and other issues that may result in unpaid tax liens and ultimate foreclosures, AARP Foundation filed an amicus brief urging the Court to stop this practice. This short session, the counties proposed legislation to put into law a new legal process to manage return of the surplus, both moving forward and retroactively. A new law must address many complicated legal and policy issues. However, the bill did not include input from all the various stakeholders, including AARP. After much work and the assistance of Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D) the bill was amended to pause the current process, put any current surplus in escrow and charge the Department of Revenue with convening a workgroup and with input from all stakeholders, report back to the legislature with the plan to update the law in the longer 2025 session. While we opposed the original bill, once amended AARP supported HB 4056.

This story is provided by AARP Oregon. Visit the AARP Oregon page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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