AARP WV, American Cancer Society Cancer address committee
West Virginia Press Association Report
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — People overwhelmingly want to age in their homes and communities instead of in costly institutions.
That was one of the messages Delegates on the West Virginia House of Delegates Senior Issues Committee heard Thursday during a presentation by AARP WV State President Rich Stonestreet.
“AARP believes that no one’s possibilities should ever be limited by their age, and we are focused on finding new solutions so that more people can live and age as they choose,” Stonestreet said. “For 2018, AARP’s legislative agenda is focused on key issues impacting West Virginians 50-plus, including legislative action in the areas of caregiving, retirement security and financial security.”
“In the area of caregiving, AARP is focused on accelerating the pace of change in providing quality home and community based services,” Stonestreet said. “… we were thrilled to hear the news that the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Medical Services has released nearly 800 slots to accommodate individuals on the ‘wait list’ as of Jan. 2. Approximately 5,600 West Virginians receive critical services through the Aged and Disabled Waiver, which provides an alternative to long-term nursing home care and promotes independence, respect and community integration.
Stonestreet said studies show 87 percent of adults ages 65 and older want to age in their current home and community.
The Senior Issues Committee scheduled AARP WV to hear the organization’s agenda and gain insight on senior issues.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to Americans 50 and older, with nearly 38 million members nationally and offices in every state. There are nearly 300,000 AARP members in West Virignia.
To represent the needs of West Virginians 50 and older in state government, Stonestreet said, AARP WV maintains an active presence at the W.Va. State Capitol during the 60-day session, as well as during interims.
“I am proud to be part of the AARP WV Capitol Advocacy Team that works with lawmakers and state leaders,” said Stonestreet, who fills a volunteer position. “Beyond these hallways, AARP is working every day in communities all across our state. We provide information and service to nearly 300,000 West Virginians who are AARP members.”
In the area of financial security, AARP is focused on protecting pensions, retirement income and combatting financial exploitation, Stonestreet said, explaining AARP is especially attentive to workers who have contributed to a pension and are in or close to retirement. “These individuals have little opportunity or time for additional retirement savings and should not be penalized by benefit cuts,” he said.
AARP also supports changes to the way retirement income is taxed so older Americans who are on fixed incomes are able to keep more of their hard-earned money in order to withstand rising costs.
Family caregivers are another group AARP WV champions, Stonestreet said.
“In West Virginia, family caregivers annually provide an estimated $2.8 billion in un-paid care. During the past two years, state legislators and Governors have joined to enact more than 150 new state laws to support approximately 40 million family caregivers across the nation,” Stonestreet said.
“Because of (the W.Va. Legislature’s) vision and your commitment to support older West Virginians, our state was among the first in the nation to adopt The CARE Act, which provides support for family caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital,” Stonestreet said. “In particular, this committee has been a champion for caregiver supports. Last session, you took the lead in passing a Caregiver Tax Credit bill that would greatly help those families who depend upon the unpaid care provided by family members in the home. Unfortunately, this bill did not complete the Legislative process in 2017. We certainly look forward to working with you again this year to reintroduce the bill.”
Juliana Frederick Curry, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, joined with Stonestreet to talk with the committee about legislation that creates a coalition to study palliative care in the state.
House Bill 4035 is a positive step to increase awareness and utilization of palliative care in West Virginia, Curry said, adding the bill, which was advanced Tuesday by the House Health Committee, could also reduce overall health care costs. HB 4035 has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee.
Curry also addressed the specifics of the legislation and palliative care.
Delegate Amy Summers, R-Summers, is lead sponsor on HB 4035, which notes palliative care is patient and family centered medical care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering caused by serious illness throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and facilitating patient autonomy, access to information, and choice. The bill would create a legislative coalition to study and report to the Legislature on palliative care.