AARP Ohio Goes Virtual To Address Key Legislation Impacting Older Ohioans

Posted on 06/10/20 by Natalie Zuccarelli

We need you

This week, AARP Ohio advocacy volunteers and staff have had the chance to connect with state legislators to promote our legislative recommendations before the General Assembly disperses for summer recess at the end of the month. There are currently several bills in play that could strip rights away from nursing home residents, affect how we vote in the November elections, remove barriers to critical utilities for Ohioans living in rural communities, and stop unfair surprise medical billing.

The time to act is now – your help is needed to protect the rights of older Ohioans. Below, we have summarized the legislation that AARP Ohio is addressing during Virtual Lobby Week. Take a look and see how you can communicate our urgent concerns to state legislators.

House Bill 606 & Senate Bill 308 – NURSING HOME IMMUNITY
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ohio General Assembly has focused on creating immunity from civil liability lawsuits for nursing homes, healthcare providers, and businesses. AARP Ohio does not support this immunity – specifically, nursing home residents and their families deserve the right to seek legal help should a loved one be harmed, neglected, or abused in one of these long-term facilities. However, if immunity must be imposed according to the General Assembly, we prefer the plan outlined in HB 606. AARP Ohio has worked with the Ohio Alliance for Justice to improve this bill and limit the scope of immunity only to issues related to transmission of coronavirus. Additionally, HB 606 would identify a clear deadline for the immunity (December 31, 2020) and would ensure that it does not protect reckless practices.

Currently, surprise medical billing burdens several Ohioans with unnecessary debt. AARP Ohio wants to put an end to this. In Ohio, between 11 and 18 percent of emergency department visits result in at least one surprise medical bill. We have worked diligently with HB 388 sponsor, Rep. Adam Holmes (HD97-R, Zanesville), to strengthen this legislation and ensure that Ohioans are protected from these unfair billing practices, regardless if they are receiving in-network or out-of-network care.

After seeing the impact that COVID-19 had on Ohio’s primary, legislation has been introduced to prepare for similar circumstances should they arise during the November general election. As originally introduced, HB 680 allowed the governor and state health director to issue a public health order that would switch to an absentee ballot mailing system if needed (to be approved by the Ohio General Assembly). AARP Ohio opposed that policy but worked and was successful in advocating for amendments to improve the bill. While we now support the approach outlined in HB 680, we know that more needs to be done to provide Ohioans with safe, effective opportunities to vote early. Individuals over 65 go out to the polls far more than any other age group and are more likely to volunteer as poll workers. Keeping this in mind, we need to be sure that older Ohioans can vote efficiently and securely; they should not have to choose between their health and right to vote. A robust ballot mailing system, that includes pre-paid return postage, would also allow for nursing home residents to participate in the November general election.

The spread of coronavirus has emphasized society’s reliance on high-speed Internet access, also known as broadband. Businesses and individuals across the state are now more dependent on Internet access than ever to complete their work; students and teachers are conducting classes online, doctors are examining patients virtually, restaurants are staying afloat through online ordering, and a number of organizations have been telecommuting on a daily basis. Ohioans living in rural communities are especially affected by a lack of Internet access as they already are experiencing a shortage of health care providers. Additionally, the only way that nursing home residents can connect with loved ones is through video chat (considering that in-person visitation is strictly prohibited). Social isolation has the potential to seriously affect residents’ mental and emotional health while living in long-term care facilities. AARP Ohio is in support of HB 13 to implement a broadband expansion program that would allow more Ohioans to have access to healthcare, family, education, and business. Expanded broadband would help to reduce feelings of loneliness during social distancing and keep Ohio’s older population up-to-date on recent news and decisions.

AARP Ohio’s advocacy volunteers have worked hard this week to bring these pieces of legislation to attention. However, if you have not scheduled a meeting with a legislator during Virtual Lobby Week, you can still make a difference! Write to your legislators now and help protect the rights of Ohio’s most vulnerable.

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

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