Legislative Report…Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Fund LTSS Data Collection and Analysis – 3 million

The Department of Finance estimates that there are currently more than 8 million Californians over the age of 65 and this population is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. With this demographic shift, there will be a growing need for long-term services and supports (LTSS) due to a growth in the number of persons with physical and developmental disabilities as well as those with traumatic injuries who are surviving longer due to advances in medical care.

AARP is looking to some priority issues for 2018-2019. One is the funding of long-term service and support data collection and analysis. AARP strongly supports this budget request, which would appropriate funds to the Department of Health Care Services for the purpose of contracting with UCLA for collection and analysis of data on LTSS access and needs in California by incorporating questions from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) in the 2019-20 and 2023-24 survey cycles. A portion of these costs can be covered by federal Medicaid matching funds. Considering the growing population of people over 65, this may be a good thing. While national surveys collect data on the prevalence of disabilities and cognitive and functional impairments, they do not provide state- and county-level estimates of the populations that need and use LTSS in California, nor do they assess the need for LTSS by income level, age, type of disability, care setting, geographic region, or racial or ethnic group. Collection of this type of data will better enable California to accurately assess need and plan LTSS budgets accordingly.

AARP also supports a proposal for a one-time budget request for $2.2 million to the California Department of Aging to achieve statewide progress in closing the gap in Alzheimer’s diagnosis using an evidence-informed, bilingual, community-based public outreach initiative. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, just 45 percent of persons affected have been medically diagnosed by a clinician. This disparity disproportionately impacts communities of color, where prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s are significantly higher, yet diagnosis of the disease lags behind that of white Americans. Early detection makes a difference. There are numerous benefits to early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, including advance-care planning for future health, legal and financial decisions, treatment options including lifestyle changes, medication management, and care planning and coordination.

AARP also supports a proposal for a one-time $15 million State General Fund allocation to establish Home Safe, a homelessness prevention demonstration grant program for victims of elder abuse and neglect who are served by county-run Adult Protective Services (APS). Home Safe is a critical step towards ending homelessness among victims of elder abuse and neglect.

Beginning July 2013, IHSS service hours were reduced by 8% for all recipients for a period of one year, with a 7% annual cut thereafter. The funding lost to those cuts was temporarily restored using proceeds from the state’s Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax, which will expire on July 1, 2019. The MCO tax must continue to avoid a 7% cut in IHSS service hours. AARP supports this proposal.

The last proposal AARP supports is increasing the state portion of the SSI/SSP to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level in 2019. The current SSI/SSP maximum grant levels are $889 per month for an individual and $1,496 per month for couples. This amount is inadequate to support safe housing, food, and other basic needs, such as utilities. According to the Federal Poverty Level, (FPL), an individual must earn at least $1,005 per month to make ends meet, and avoid poverty.

On another note, the legislation that was passed to close the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D in 2019 is being challenged by the big Pharma companies. AARP is working on protecting us from them and needs our help. We need to write to our Congressmen and women and tell them it’s time to stand up to Big Pharma, and say no. Tell your members of Congress to keep the doughnut hole closed and Rx costs down! Go to action.aarp.org and sign the petition!