Rx Affordability, Nursing Home Protections Top AARP Maryland’s 2021 Legislative Agenda

Posted on 01/12/21

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 12, 2021) – As the Maryland General Assembly prepares to convene on January 13,  AARP Maryland State President Jim Campbell and State Director Hank Greenberg are announcing the organization’s 2021 legislative agenda, with a focus on prescription drug affordability, protections for nursing home and assisted living facility residents and staff,  expansion of high-speed internet, and support for Maryland’s 771,000 family caregivers.

Now more than ever – during this historic pandemic – AARP Maryland is calling on our elected officials to join us to ensure all Marylanders can choose how to live as they age, with safety, security and dignity.
Hank Greenberg, AARP Maryland State Director

“As you know, it’s been a hard year for Marylanders, including our 850,000 members and their families,” said Greenberg. “The coronavirus has upended our routines, separated us from our loved ones, and disproportionately impacted the older and most vulnerable among us. Now more than ever – during this historic pandemic – AARP Maryland is calling on our elected officials to join us to ensure all Marylanders can choose how to live as they age, with safety, security and dignity.”

“AARP advocates on policy issues that matter most to Marylanders age 50 and over and their families,” said Campbell, who served in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 2003. “During the 2021 session, this includes overriding the governor’s veto of funding for the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, supporting measures to provide paid family and medical leave; access to affordable health care; protecting retirement economic security and combat financial exploitation, ensure quality long-term care; create and maintain livable communities; and provide stronger protections for consumers.”

“We are also joining with the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative in support of the Health Equity Resource Communities Act that would reduce the devastating health disparities apparent in low-income communities and communities of color,” said Campbell.

SUPPORTING FAMILY CAREGIVERS
Paid Family and Medical Leave (HB 375/SB211)
AARP Maryland supports legislation to enact a paid family and medical leave insurance program, like programs already enacted in six other states. Such a program would ensure that every working Marylanders will have paid time away from work to welcome a new child, to recover from a serious illness, to care for a loved one recovering from a serious illness or to be with someone at their end of life. Learn more at Time to Care Coalition.

ACCESSING AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
Prescription Drug Affordability
The prices of many prescription drugs have been increasing rapidly, leaving individuals with higher direct costs, higher co-pays and higher insurance premiums. In 2019 AARP Maryland supported legislation that created the Prescription Drug Affordability Board to look at the high cost of prescription drugs and learn what factors are causing the increases. In 2020 the organization supported a bill that would have provided funding for that board to generate the revenue it will need to sustain and expand its work, through a fee on pharmaceutical corporations, pharmacy benefits managers, insurers and related entities. During the opening days of the 2021 session, AARP Maryland will encourage the Maryland General Assembly to override the governor’s veto of this critical funding legislation.

It’s remarkable that there is currently no licensure requirement to run an assisted living facility in the state of Maryland
Jim Campbell, AARP Maryland State President

Assisted Living Reforms
Residents in assisted living facilities are among the most vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. That is why AARP Maryland has convened and will lead a coalition of elder advocates to support reforms for assisted living facilities. Individuals in assisted living programs are frail and have a higher level of medical needs. According to the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality, up to two-thirds of residents in assisted living programs have moderate to severe dementia and less than half receive adequate treatment for this condition.

Because residents in assisted living have critical medical needs, legislative and regulatory changes are needed.

Nursing Home Reform
Since the start of the pandemic, the Maryland Department of Health reports that most of the state’s fatalities are occurring among residents of nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and similar long-term care facilities. AARP Maryland supports reforms including reporting of life-threatening infections, maintaining proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and visitors, and establishing protocols for family visits to ensure protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable.

Mental Health for Maryland’s 50+
Brain and behavioral health are key to well-being. AARP Maryland is for training for staff who work with individuals with brain and behavioral health issues, and the psychological conditions essential for living well as Marylanders age.

Reducing Health Care Disparities (SB 172)
COVID-19 has heightened awareness of systemic inequities and disparities within Maryland's communities. AARP Maryland has joined the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative to support legislation during the 2021 legislative session that will establish Health Equity Resource Communities (HERC). The legislation will allow communities to be eligible for grants, tax incentives and health provider loan repayment assistance.

FIGHTING FOR CONSUMER PROTECTIONS
Energy Suppliers (HB397/SB 31)
Maryland households have been paying tens of millions of dollars more per year (in aggregate) to third-party electricity suppliers. This adverse outcome for consumers, despite many suppliers, indicates that Maryland’s third-party supply residential providers have been fleecing Marylanders, especially older and low-income citizens. AARP Maryland will advocate and support HB 397/SB 31 that ensures energy assistance families receive the benefit of retail choice would receive the same rate or lower rate that the regulated utility offers.

High Speed Internet (HB 97/ SB 66)
All Marylanders need access to high speed internet, especially in hard to serve areas. Affordable, reliable high-speed internet access helps older adults to age in place productively and safely with a higher quality of life than they might otherwise enjoy. AARP Maryland will advocate for HB 97/SB 66 that establishes the Office of Digital Inclusion in the Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure that every resident of the State is supported by high-quality broadband Internet service at an affordable price.

PROTECTING PENSIONS, RETIREMENT INCOME AND COMBATING FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION
AARP Maryland supports policies that protect earned pension benefits, promote reasonable taxation and guard against financial exploitation.

State Teachers and Employees' Retirement Income
State and local employees contribute to their own retirement in every paycheck. Yet for years, Maryland failed to keep their promise to make full pension payments. AARP Maryland believes that state governments should make their required annual payments, and we support efforts to shore up underfunded pension systems through fiscally responsible changes that protect both the long-term viability of existing defined benefit plans and the financial security of retirees. AARP is especially concerned the workers who have contributed to a pension and who are already retired or close to retirement will have little opportunity or time to increase their savings and should not be penalized.

Elder Abuse and Exploitation
AARP Maryland will support legislative proposals that aim to protect our most vulnerable Marylanders aged 50-plus from abuse and exploitation. We will advocate to preserve and strengthen the ability of state adult protective-services agencies, including the Ombudsman, to have unfettered access to investigate complaints about abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults who are unable to care for themselves or make decisions due to mental or physical impairment, illness or a crisis in their lives. AARP Maryland will advocate both to increase funding and to ward off efforts to cut funding for state agencies. It is also crucial to prevent, detect and address financial exploitation by fighting elder financial exploitation with task forces, new legislation and more. We will advocate for legislation to increase criminal and civil penalties against perpetrators of financial exploitation and to update the definition of financial exploitation.

STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES FOR ALL AGES
Age Friendly/Complete Streets
Eighty-seven percent of adults ages 65 and older want to stay in their current homes and communities as they age. As a result, states and communities need to respond to the wants and needs of an older constituency. But, it is critical to note that many of the things that make communities welcoming and supportive for older residents are things that benefit residents of all ages: safe streets and neighborhoods; affordable and accessible housing and health care; reliable transportation options; opportunities to learn, work and socialize; and a sense of community and responsive government. AARP Maryland will continue to work with policy makers on creating and sustaining communities for all ages.

ABOUT AARP
With 860,000 members in Maryland, AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation's largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media

For the most up to date information, sign up for AARP Maryland email action alerts at aarp.org/getinvolved. _______________________________________________
[1] Maryland’s Dysfunctional Residential Third-Party Energy Supply Market: An Assessment of Costs and Policies By Laurel Peltier and Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D. December 2018 https://www.abell.org/sites/default/files/files/Third%20Party%20Energy%20Report_final%20for%20web.pdf

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

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