How Did The Legislature Treat The 50+ In Week One of Session?

Posted on 02/17/20 by Tom Lacock

Wyoming House of Representatives

The 2020 Legislative Session is underway. Speaker of the Wyoming House Steve Harshman is seen here Friday, leading a House that filed over 240 bills and resolutions this session.

AARP Wyoming's 2020 Bill Tracker

No.What is it about?SponsorHow does it impact people 50 and older?Status
HB143Lowering prescription costs 1BarlowWould require the Wyoming Department of Health to examine a number of ways the State of Wyoming could lower the cost of prescription drugs. Read more below.Being Heard in House Labor
HB113Lowering prescription costs 2SalazarSimilar to the previous drug bill, but specifically focuses on prescription drug costs savings by importing drugs from Canada.Being Heard in House Labor
HB49Helping people save for retirementWilsonGives the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services responsibility coordinate and track national and state efforts to help Wyomites save for retirement.Referred to House Labor
HB112Cost of living adjustment 1HendersonRetired State Employees have not received a cost of living adjustment in 12 years. This bill would provide a one-time payment to retirees over the next two years.Being Heard in House Approps.
HB110Cost of living adjustment 2HarshmanSimilar to HB112, would provide one time payment (13th check) to retired state employees.Referred to House Approps.
HB167Show your driver’s license to voteGrayRequires you to show a driver’s license on the day you vote. Our concern is that 1 in 5 people (about 11,000 voters) over 65 do not have a driver’s license.Died
HB71Increase in your phone billTransportationWill increase every phone bill in Wyoming by $.50/month to fund WyoLink, the state’s public safety communication system.Died
SF37Increase access to mental healthLabor HealthWould allow individuals to access mental health professionals in Wyoming and other states via telehealth. This would increase access to care and mitigate the stigma sometimes associated with mental health care.Passed Senate Labor
SF86Removes the tax on some hygiene productsEllis

Would remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products and adult diapers. Adult diaper sales are likely to overtake children’s diaper sales over the next 10 years.

Died
HB62Supports local funding for senior housing and careLaborCreates a local funding mechanism so that communities can support the construction of long term care facilities and providing in home care.Passed House Labor
HB139Tax Rebate for the Elderly and DisabledHallinanWould provide a tax rebate of $700-$800 for individuals who meet certain requirements.Referred to House Labor
HB75Allows Governor to decide whether to support Medicaid expansionRevenueWould authorize the governor to determine whether expanding Medicaid is viable and financially advantageous for Wyoming.

Died

HB109Electronic Health Care Monitoring in Long Term CareKirkbrideWould determine when and how electronic monitoring and communications devices are used at nursing homes by the facilities as well as residents. AARP opposes.Referred to House Labor
SF96Cold Showers for GrandmaScottWould change minimum water heater temperatures in nursing home, and lower nursing staffing numbers to industry standards. AARP opposes.Referred to Senate Labor
SF123Long Term Care InsuranceKinskyWould require all Long Term Insurance carriers doing business in Wyoming to justify rate increases toThe State Insurance Commissioner.Referred to Senate Labor

Speed Week in The Wyoming Legislature's Opening Five Days

Stock car fans know this week as Speed Week - as a week’s worth of races in Daytona, Fla. culminate in the biggest NASCAR race of the year - The Daytona 500.

Speed Week is also a fitting name for the first week of the 2020 Legislative Session. With 249 bills and seven resolutions filed in the House of Representatives, and another 142 pieces of legislation in the Senate, the chambers were allowing legislators two minutes to describe the proposed law being considered. Others who wished to speak to a bill’s merits or deficiencies before the vote for introduction got between 30 seconds to a minute to speak before the vote. The pace was necessary as bills which weren’t introduced by Friday died automatically.

Kinsky.jpg

Sheridan Senator Dave Kinskey (left) has sponsored a bill to make it more difficult for Long Term Care Insurance companies to raise their rates on Wyomingites.

New Bills Dominate The Week

Friday was also the final day for bills to hit the Legislative website, leading to an entire new page of laws for AARP Wyoming to keep an eye on. Chief among them is Senate File 123, brought by Sheridan lawmakers Dave Kinskey and Mark Kinner, which would force Long Term Care Insurance Companies to justify rate increases to the Wyoming Insurance Commissioner. AARP Wyoming supports the measure, which slipped by on a 22-8 vote for introduction.

Unfortunately Long Term Care Insurance has been too expensive for many, but your legislator can change that. Senate File 123 would make sure the insurance companies aren’t allowed to overcharge or unreasonably increase prices for LTC insurance.

Click here to ask your legislature to help make LTC insurance more affordable.

Casper Senator Charles Scott has sponsored legislation, which contains a catch title of "Cold Showers for Grandma."

Cold Showers For Gramma

While it has received notoriety due to its catch title, Senate File 96, otherwise known as Cold Showers for Gramma, is less exciting than it sounds. The bill, sponsored by Senator Charles Scott, would do two things - raise the water heater temperature in skilled nursing facilities from 110 degrees to 120, which is a standard across the country.

The second thing SF96 would do is drop the requirement for having either an RN or LPN in the memory care unit of an assisted living facility from 24 hours a day to a more common eight. The bill is the result of dissatisfaction for the time it took for the Wyoming Department of Health to institute those same changes through the state’s rule-making process. Those rules are currently being changed through the state process and would take effect well ahead of the bill’s scheduled effective date of July 1. The bill could be pulled by the sponsor in the coming days.

State Representative Tim Salazar (right) speaks to Clark Stith of Rock Springs Friday on the House floor. Salazar is sponsoring one of two bills around prescription drugs this session.

Lower Prescription Drug Prices Now

Two prescription drug bills (HB113, and HB143) supported by AARP Wyoming have survived vote for introduction and had their first hearing in the House Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee. However, due to the number of parties who testified on behalf of the bill took the bills did not receive a vote Friday afternoon, during House Labor’s meeting. That will likely come Wednesday or Friday.

AARP Wyoming’s Tom Lacock testified in favor of the bill, pointing out this is a pocketbook issue for AARP’s members. AARP research tells us the average Medicare beneficiary is on 4.5 prescriptions each day and in Wyoming 35 percent of residents stopped taking medication as prescribed due to cost in 2017.

Cheyenne residents Carole Martin, Connie Davis, and Julie Tucker all drove home the point by telling the committee their personal stories of dealing with the high price of prescription drugs.

AARP Wyoming wishes to thank the bill’s sponsors Rep. Tim Salazar and House Majority Leader Eric Barlow for bringing the bills and supporting AARP members’ need to find prescription drug cost relief. Salazar’s bill (113) would ask the Department of Health to study the concept of importing prescription drugs from Canada and report back to the Legislature. Barlow’s bill asks the Department of Health to study a number of issues around prescription drug costs including the supply chain, importation, and how it could help lower drug costs for the state as well as its citizens.

Telehealth for Mental Health Moves Forward

AARP Wyoming helped move Senate File 37, Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact - forward with its testimony before the Senate Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee on Friday. The bill would allow for mental health services to be delivered across state lines using telehealth. Psychology services are considered a good fit for telehealth services and research tells us some psychological conditions such as PTSD can be better served through telehealth means. However, the State of Wyoming has just 133 practicing psychologists in the state, compared to over 17,000 in California. It is the hope of AARP Wyoming that more mental health availability will lead to fewer suicides among the state’s age 50+ population. Currently, the highest occurance of suicide in the state is in adults over the age of 85.

Electronic Monitoring in long-term care facilities

The Wyoming Hospital Association and House Judiciary Chair Dan Kirkbride have brought a bill, HB109 - Electronic Monitoring, which would put sideboards on when and where those who are in skilled nursing facilities would be allowed to use communications tools such as a Google Home or Facebook Portal. AARP Wyoming understands the concerns of nursing homes, but has several amendments it is asking for in the bill in hopes of protecting the rights of those who are in nursing homes. AARP is working with the Hospital Association to make changes to the bill, but currently stands in opposition on House Bill 190.

Representative Lloyd Larsen makes a point during debate Friday during the House Appropriations Committee meting.

COLA’s still kicking

There are two bills still alive that would allow for Cost of Living Adjustments for retired state employees, House Bill 110, sponsored by Rep. Steve Harshman, and House Bill 112, a product of Cheyenne Rep. Bill Henderson. However, discussion in the House Appropriations Committee on Friday afternoon discussed whether the state’s retirement plans were ever actually meant to offer COLA’s.

House member Lloyd Larsen suggested Friday in the House Appropriations Committee that the state retirement system may not have been set up to account for COLAs, but that periodic COLAs had been given over the years, leading to an expectation of more. The conversation among the committee suggested that in order to give a COLA now, current employees would be required to pay in more to the retirement system to keep it healthy.

“Mechanically, it wasn’t designed for that,” Larsen said. “To do that, we are going to have to go to current employees and ask them to increase their participation rate to keep it (state retirement accounts) as is. I don’t argue an adjustment would bring great relief. I certainly understand that… Please forgive me if I have sounded callous. I really don’t mean to.”

“I don’t think Representative Larsen has a callous bone in his body,” backed House Appropriations Chair, Bob Nicholas.

“I’m just saying, help,” responded state retiree, Connie Glassman.

While the bill was in committee, it didn’t receive a vote due to time restrictions and the amount of testimony the committee took on the issue. However, it signaled a COLA would be an uphill battle during a time when the state is struggling financially.

That’s All For Now

A few bills on the AARP Wyoming billtracker met their demise this week. Senate File 86, the Health Products Dignity Act, which would have removed sales tax from adult diapers, children’s diapers, and feminine health products needed two-thirds vote in the Senate for introduction. Instead, it received an 18-11 vote. Two bills around Medicaid were killed. House Bill 75 died on a 20-39 vote early in the week, while another bill, House Joint Resolution 7, which would have put expansion to a ballot initiative of the people was defeated even more soundly (16-40) on Friday. Bills that would have increased taxes on fuel and national corporations also failed this week.

Is there a bill you want to testify on or learn more about? Contact Tom Lacock at tlacock@aarp.org.

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

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