Simmering issues important to all older Americans and their families, like health and financial security, may escalate to a full boil in many state Capitols in 2018.
Facing these challenges and opportunities head-on, AARP is already exhaustively at work throughout the country, fighting for the issues that matter and driving an innovative agenda focused on commonsense solutions without the clutter of partisanship.
Last year, AARP State Offices achieved huge successes, including new supports for family caregivers, greater access to home and community based services, and new ways to save for retirement. This year, we will continue to find ways to better enable more people to live and age as they choose.
Among our top priorities:
Supporting Family Caregivers
About 40 million family caregivers represent the backbone of our country’s care system, providing hours of unpaid care to their loved ones every day. Over the past two years, AARP state offices have worked with state legislators and governors to enact more than 150 new laws that support these unsung heroes.
In 2018, AARP will continue to support family caregivers and their loved ones by advancing laws and policies that:
- Provide information about the medical or nursing tasks that family caregivers will be asked to perform when their loved ones are discharged from the hospital. The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act promotes family caregiver involvement, notification and instruction, and has been enacted in nearly 40 states already.
- Reduce the financial burden for family caregivers through a tax credit.
- Ensure Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can use the full extent of their education and training, and allow nurses to delegate certain medical tasks to home care workers.
- Provide family caregivers with a much-needed break through greater access to respite care services.
- Help family caregivers manage personal or property decisions through comprehensive adult guardianship and power of attorney improvements.
- Encourage employers to offer workplace flexibility options, such as extending paid leave and allowing employees to use sick leave for caregiving responsibilities.
- Create or modify a home care provider registry to enable public access to home care information and availability.
- Remove barriers to telehealth services such as outdated regulations and policies, in order to expand access to care, improve the quality and reduce the cost of care, and create greater convenience for patients and their family caregivers.
Strengthening Home and Community Based Services
AARP knows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want to stay in their homes and communities. That’s why AARP is urging state policymakers to improve home and community based support for older adults and Americans living with disabilities by:
- Lowering costs and improving access.
- Providing greater choice of settings, providers and services.
- Enhancing quality of life and quality of care.
- Increasing effective transitions to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and institutionalizations.
Accessing Retirement Plans at Work
Half of all U.S. families have zero saved for retirement, and 55 million Americans do not have access to retirement saving plans at work. That’s why AARP will continue advocating for Work and Save plans to increase access to workplace savings options and remove barriers for small businesses that want to offer retirement savings plans to their employees.
Ensuring Utility Services are Affordable
All across the country, families count on utility services to warm and cool their homes, keep their lights on, and access the technology to connect with loved ones—as well as police and fire in case of emergency. AARP strives to save utility customers money by fighting for affordable, reliable, and safe energy and telecommunications services.
In addition, this year, AARP will also continue fighting to: extend Medicaid coverage; lower the costs of prescription drugs; protect pension benefits and retirement income; strengthen communities for all ages; and combat financial exploitation and elder abuse.
To stay up to date on our work in your state, and nationwide, sign up for our e-alerts AARP Advocates e-newsletter, follow me on Twitter @roamthedomes, or visit your state Web page.
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.
In addition to advocating for older Americans in the halls of Congress, AARP staff and volunteers are working on the ground in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to make a difference in people’s lives through advocacy. This year, we have helped enact state policies to support more than 30 million family caregivers and provide thousands of workers with a new way to save for retirement.
Achieving these results took a lot of hard work and dedication from state legislators, governors and other elected officials. They worked together – often across party lines – to write, support, and advance commonsense policies that make people’s day-to-day lives a little bit easier and gives them more financial security in their retirement.
To recognize these elected leaders, AARP is proud to announce our fourth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers who fought to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones along with our third annual bipartisan class of Super Savers who fought to help more Americans retire with confidence.
Every day, 40 million Americans help parents, spouses and other loved ones live independently at home, where they want to be. Family caregiving is a labor of love, to be sure, but it can also be a challenge. Care responsibilities can include providing transportation, cooking meals, managing finances, performing complex medical tasks, helping with bathing and dressing, and so much more. Sixty percent of family caregivers juggle full- or part-time jobs with their caregiving duties, and many are still raising their families.
AARP is fighting for commonsense solutions to make these big responsibilities a little bit easier—and we’ve seen real progress in states across the country.
AARP’s 2017 class of Capitol Caregivers recognizes 91 state legislators, five governors, one lieutenant governor, and one justice from more than 30 states, who advanced policies that:
A list of AARP’s 2017 Capitol Caregivers and the legislation they championed can be found here.
Today, 45 percent of working-age households have no retirement savings at all. At AARP, we believe everyone should be able to retire with confidence. That’s why we’re fighting for Work and Save plans that give more workers access to a payroll deduction retirement savings plan. Employees who are able to save for retirement out of their regular paychecks are 15 times more likely to save.
AARP’s third class of Super Savers includes six state legislators and two state treasurers who were integral to the passage of state-facilitated retirement programs in 2017.
A list of AARP’s 2017 Super Savers and the legislation they championed can be found here.
More work to do . . .
In 2018, AARP will continue to work with elected state leaders across the country to fight for the issues that matter to you and your families. To stay up-to-date on our progress, or get involved, sign up here.
2014 Capitol Caregivers
2015 Capitol Caregivers
2016 Capitol Caregivers
2015 Super Savers
2016 Super Savers
Nancy LeaMond is AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer. She leads the organization’s Communities, State and National Group, including government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.
Oregon’s workforce is feeling anxious about retirement – more than half don’t have a workplace retirement savings option. But the retirement landscape is changing in the state with the launch of OregonSaves.
“OregonSaves is an easier way to save for retirement,” said Joyce DeMonnin, communications and media relations director for AARP Oregon. “It’s specifically for the 1 million Oregonians who don’t have a retirement option at their work.”
Oregon, one of nine states that have approved AARP-backed state-based, private sector retirement savings programs, is the first to actually implement its program. A pilot phase was launched earlier this year, and full-scale implementation is underway.
The OregonSaves program got high marks from a DHM Research poll conducted in Oregon during the summer with nearly 80% approval rating among Oregonians across party lines, according to John Horvick, DHM Vice President and Political Director. About the same percentage would recommend the program to friends and family.
Horvick notes, “Oregonians are facing two big challenges to our financial future: we aren’t saving enough for retirement, and many of us don’t have access to the tools that can help us save. OregonSaves is a first-of-its-kind retirement savings option that aims to fill in these gaps.” The survey found 63% of Oregonians are anxious about retirement.
“With OregonSaves, billions of dollars will be saved, that aren’t being saved today,” said State Treasurer Tobias Read, the chair of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board. “OregonSaves will improve the bottom line for workers, families, businesses and ultimately taxpayers.”
OregonSaves started with two “pilot” programs and is now facilitating the process for employers with 100 or more employees. There is a rolling phase-in for the program through 2020. 75% of employees in the pilot programs are in the OregonSaves program with an average paycheck contribution of more than $70. With just the pilot employers enrolled now, the program has more than $110,000 in savings.
“We think it’s a win-win for Oregon,” DeMonnin said.
Let states help people save for retirement.
It’s the idea behind the long-running AARP-supported drive to establish new retirement savings plans for the 55 million private sector workers in America – who don’t have access to a workplace savings program. The idea was the brainchild of current AARP Senior Strategic Policy Advisor David John and Mark Iwry, a former Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute.
About ten years ago, David and Mark created a campaign that sought to give workers – often low-income and employees of small businesses – a little “nudge” to save by pushing automatic savings into a simple payroll deduction IRA. That is, unless the employee chose to opt-out.
A 2017 AARP study titled “Access to Workplace Retirement Plans by Race and Ethnicity” and other studies showed that workers are 15X’s more likely to save if they have a savings deduction plan at work.
Auto-IRA was first considered in Congress, with the Automatic IRA Act of 2007, but the legislation did not move ahead. However many states, with powerful backing from AARP, moved to fill the gap with their own versions.
Current AARP Board member and former US Comptroller General David Walker is still very passionate about this push and spoke about it in a recent op-ed in that ran in USA Today. In the op-ed, Walker remarked that “the states are closer to the people and they are often more willing and able to test creative solutions.”
At this time, thirty states are in some stage of considering what AARP calls “Work and Save” state-based, private sector programs. The states include: Utah, Arkansas and Utah. Illinois, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Washington State and New Jersey have already approved their programs.
Some in Congress are seeking to – as Walker says – “undermine bipartisan state solutions to the retirement savings deficit faced by many Americans” by considering a veto of Department of Labor regulations that would make it easier for American workers to save – without a viable workplace retirement savings option. And the Senate is contemplating following the House’s lead.
Read Walker’s op-ed in support of Work & Save, here.