Winners & Losers in 2014: AARP Cites Help for Caregivers, Little for Utility Consumers
Assoc. Representing Largest Voting Bloc Applauds EPIC Expansion, Foreclosure Help; Says Non-Grandparents Raising Kids Left in Cold
Statement by Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State:
ALBANY, N.Y., June 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "We applaud our state legislators for helping more seniors afford life-saving medications, extending protections for homeowners from foreclosure and health care patients from surprise medical bills, and taking small steps towards assisting our overstressed family caregivers.
"But there's much more to be done to help our frail elderly and those who care for them – and doing so would ease the burden on taxpayers, who pay far more when caregivers burn out and are left no choice but to place their loved one in Medicaid-funded nursing homes.
"After huge spikes in energy bills from an extremely harsh winter and with forecasts calling for an unusually hot summer, AARP is extremely disappointed that Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos and his conference refused to give overburdened utility consumers an advocate to fight unfair rate hikes.
"And we are disappointed for over 100,000 children that the Assembly would not strengthen the rights of the non-grandparent relatives who have stepped up to try to provide them loving homes and a solid life foundation.
"Our work on these issues will continue in full force."
The 2014-15 State Budget included a $5 million increase in funding for non-Medicaid, in-home services for the elderly. AARP advocated a $26 million increase to completely eliminate waiting lists for these critical services, which help family caregivers continue caring for frail elderly at home and in many cases spare taxpayers a much larger expense through the Medicaid program when caregivers burn out and have no choice but to place their loved one in a nursing home. Additionally, Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Senator Hannon introduced a bill (A9816/S7676) to ensure that caregivers receive live pre-discharge demonstrations from hospitals to help care for their loved ones at home.
Seniors on Life-Saving Prescription Drugs
The budget made the state's low-cost prescription drug subsidy program for seniors available to more middle-income New Yorkers by more than doubling income eligibility thresholds. Individuals 65 and older with annual income up to $75,000 and married couples with annual income of up to $100,000 now qualify for EPIC to supplement their out-of-pocket Medicare Part D drug plan costs – up from the previous respective limits of $35,000 and $50,000.
Homeowners facing Foreclosure
Lawmakers extended to 2020 a law originally enacted in 2009 that gives homeowners a fair shot to avoid foreclosure (S7119) by requiring lenders to provide 90-day foreclosure notices and participate in mandatory settlement conferences to help develop a mortgage payment plan the homeowner can afford.
Health Care Patients
The budget will curtail "surprise" and potentially devastating bills from out-of-network providers by increasing health plan disclosure mandates, holding the patient harmless and requiring health care providers and insurers to resolve disputes without involving recovering patients. Lawmakers also passed a bill (S328A/A746A) ensuring blind and visually impaired patients a large-print version or audio recording, if requested, of hospital discharge plan or preadmission information.
The Senate failed to provide New York's overburdened utility consumers with an independent advocate to fight unfair rate hikes. New York utility customers are reeling from record bill spikes during this past harsh winter, as evidenced by a record number of power shutoff warnings for non-payment. Utility consumers also already pay more than $10 million annually for their utility companies to push regulators for higher rates, yet they have no independent advocate pushing back. The Assembly passed a bill (A6239B) to create an independent utility consumer advocate in May. Although the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference strongly supported the companion bill, its majority coalition governing partners – Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos and his conference – refused to agree to put the bi-partisan-supported bill (S4550B) on the floor for a vote, leaving New York as one of just 10 states and by far the largest without a proven money-saving advocate for its utility consumers.
Children being raised by non-grandparent relatives
The Assembly failed to take up a bill (A7189B) to strengthen the rights of non-grandparent relatives raising children whose own parents are unable to. The Relative Caregiver Bill would simply extend to aunts, uncles, adult siblings and great-grandparents the rights grandparents have had for 11 years to petition for custody and guardianship of children who have lived in their homes for at least two years straight. The legislation passed the Senate and was supported by the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.
AARP, which represents the state's largest voting demographic – the 50+ - plans to tour the state this summer and fall to inform its members about the successes and failures on matters of importance to Baby Boomers and older New Yorkers through community events, in-person briefings, publications, and tele-town halls that often reach 10,000 members.
New Yorkers 50 and older accounted for 47 percent of all voters statewide in the 2012 presidential election, 51 percent of the turnout in the 2009 New York City mayor's race and 54 percent of New York City's turnout in the 2010 statewide elections.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.
SOURCE AARP New York State