AARP Priorities for 2021 MN Legislative Session

Posted on 01/12/21

Advocating for what is important to our members and giving you a voice at the state and federal level is a priority for AARP Minnesota. Your voice matters. Legislators appreciate hearing from constituents, so they know how bills will affect you and your family. Knowing more about AARP Minnesota's legislative priorities is helpful as you prepare to make a call, send an email, or prepare to testify before a committee.

Below you will find an overview of the issues we plan to advocate for in the 2021 Minnesota Legislative Session:

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Prioritize Vaccines for Older Minnesotans

AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 95% of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 50 and older. AARP has called for increased funding for vaccine development, production, and distribution so that any American who wants to get vaccinated can do so. Given the initial limited supply of vaccines, AARP believes that policymakers should develop plans to distribute vaccines in a way that maximizes public health and safety while prioritizing those at the highest risk. Those plans should be transparent, so the public can understand how vaccines are being allocated and see that the decisions are backed by science.

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Long-Term Care Reform

AARP is fighting to save lives and protect nursing home residents against sickness, neglect, and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has revealed underlying structural problems of short staffing and lack of rigorous infection control policies including access to testing and personal protective equipment that have contributed to the staggering loss of life. AARP urges lawmakers to enact commonsense policies immediately to:

  • SUPPORT HIGHER WAGES AND PAID SICK LEAVE FOR STAFF: Direct-care work is demanding and working conditions are often difficult. Turnover is high because the job is strenuous and offers limited opportunities for advancement, inadequate training, lack of respect, and exclusion from care planning. HF2; Ecklund/SFxxx provides emergency sick leave.
  • FUND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: HF3; Liebling/SFxxx provides funding to the Department of Health to provide infection control strike teams and the Department of Human Services' emergency staffing pools to help facilities with severe staff shortages.
  • ADDRESS SOCIAL ISOLATION: Require access to facilitated virtual visitation, and establish accountability for facilities to resume in-person visitation.
  • PRIORITIZE TESTING AND PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE): Regular and ongoing testing to be prioritized, adequate PPE for residents, staff, inspectors, and visitors.

Additional Information:

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Fix the Social Security Offset in Unemployment Insurance and Stop Penalizing Older Workers

(HF2; Ecklund & HF106; Davnie/SFxxx; Rarick)
Minnesota is the only state that reduces Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits for some laid-off workers who receive or have filed or intend to file for Social Security (SS) benefits. As a result, many low-income older workers have been denied all state UI and federal benefits designed to help laid-off workers during the pandemic economic crisis. Job loss disruptions can have lasting effects, especially for older workers who face additional barriers such as ageism as well as continued health vulnerabilities due to COVID-19, delaying the return to work that they want and need. Many never recover financially. The average annual Social Security benefit is modest, meaning many older workers need to work to make ends meet. AARP supports the immediate repeal of the Social Security offset and making it retroactive to help older workers economically hurt during this crisis.

Additional Information:

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Address Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices

While all attention is appropriately placed on life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, we can’t lose sight that Americans still pay the highest price for prescription drugs in the world. The high cost of prescription drugs is quickly outpacing all other consumer products and raising rates for health care premiums. According to AARP research, the average annual retail cost of prescription drug therapy for a specialty drug is nearly $79,000, a number above the median U.S. household income and more than three times the median income for Medicare beneficiaries. AARP supports legislation to:

  • ESTABLISH A RX AFFORDABILITY COMMISSION: The Rx Affordability Commission would evaluate drug prices and sets limits on how much certain payers, including employers, and state and local governments pay for high-cost prescription medications. (HFxxx; Morrison/SFxxx, Franzen)
  • GIVE LEGAL AUTHORITY TO MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL TO SUE MANUFACTURERS FOR PRICE GAUGING (HFxxx; Stephenson/SFxxx)

Additional Information:

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Create a More Age-Friendly Minnesota

(HFxxx; Lippert/SFxxx)
Minnesota is undergoing a major demographic shift. In 2020, Minnesota’s 65+ population surpassed the school-age population for the first time. Research indicates that older Minnesotans overwhelmingly want to remain in their communities for as long as possible, but often lack the necessary supports and opportunities to do so. At the same time, older Minnesotans have been disproportionately and tragically affected by COVID-19.

By committing to becoming a more Age-Friendly state and community, we can tap into the opportunities and solve for the challenges of an aging population; and create communities equipped to be more resilient during times of crisis and disaster. AARP supports legislation to fund and make permanent an independent Age-Friendly Council to make aging a strategic priority for Minnesota to:

  • ENSURE ALL STATE AGENCIES CONSIDER AGING IN THEIR WORK: Coordinate across agencies/private sector to create a more age-friendly state – from transportation to housing, health and civic engagement, and beyond.
  • CATALYZE IMPROVEMENTS AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL: Provide resources to communities and removing barriers that have previously limited innovative approaches.
  • PRIORITIZE EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
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Support Family Caregivers Through Paid Family and Medical Leave

(HFxxx; Richardson/SFxxx; Kent)
Family caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system, yet without adequate supports, they can suffer financial setbacks, emotional hardships, and dire health consequences. In Minnesota, the economic contribution of unpaid family caregivers is estimated to be $760 billion. AARP urges lawmakers to recognize this invaluable contribution and support a paid family and medical leave program to provide partial wage replacement up to 12 weeks for workers caring for a seriously ill family member.

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

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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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