TOPEKA — Organizations that represent older Kansans have released their lists of legislative priorities for 2022. The fact that practically all of the goals have been on the same lists in years past isn’t lost on the groups’ members.
“Nobody listens to us,” said Donna Lehane, a member of the Silver Haired Legislature from Wichita.
The Silver Haired Legislature, comprised of 125 members from across the state was created by the Kansas Legislature in 1982 for the purpose of identifying issues important to residents 60 years and older and educating lawmakers about those issues. The SHL, AARP Kansas and Kansas Advocates for Better Care are the three most prominent organizations that represent seniors in Topeka.
Lehane said SHL members often can’t even get an audience with legislators, let alone get them to take action.
Nevertheless, she and other SHL members aren’t giving up.
“Somebody’s gotta stay in their face. To be heard, we have to stay out there.”
Here’s a look at some of the organizations and issues:
Kansas Secure Future Act
According to AARP, it is working with State Treasurer Lynn Rogers of Wichita and key legislators on legislation that would give employers the option of participating in a retirement savings program organized by the treasurer’s office and managed by a financial investment company. A survey of Kansas small business owners revealed that nearly three-fourths worry that residents have not saved enough for retirement and will become reliant on public assistance programs. The retirement program would be similar to Kansas’ plan 529 for education savings, which gives taxpayers a deduction of up to $3,000 ($6,000 if married) for contributions to an account.
Lifting restrictions on APRNs
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are now required to work under the supervision of a physician and often must pay the doctor to do so. Otherwise, they can’t write prescriptions for common medications such as insulin and blood pressure drugs. Lifting that restriction would improve health care in underserved areas, AARP says.
‘Rebalancing’ long-term care
‘Rebalancing’ refers to giving older residents more options for receiving long-term health care in their homes rather than in institutions. One way, AARP says, is for the state to do more to help caregivers — many of them unpaid — who provide that care. Options include paid or unpaid leave for caregivers who need to take off work to provide care.
Kansas is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid health coverage, known as KanCare in Kansas. AARP supports a bill that would extend that coverage to about 165,000 low-income residents, including thousands who are too young for Medicare.
Kansas ranks in the bottom half of states when it comes to broadband access. Indeed, one county in southwest Kansas has no access. AARP argues that access is a crucial component of health care for people with mobility and transportation issues.
AARP Kansas supports the creation of a low-income utility program.
KANSAS SILVER HAIRED LEGISLATURE
Also see above, with the addition that Silver Haired legislators think the state should provide seniors with training and assistance in the use of the internet.
Fully fund KPERS
A 2020 report found that the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System had unfunded liabilities of nearly $38 billion. SHL members want the state to fund those obligations and a cost-of-living adjustment for retired members of KPERS.
SHL is calling on the state to continue funding community-based transportation for seniors.
Citing rising property taxes, SHL wants the Legislature to pass property tax relief for senior citizens under a certain income limit.
SHL members want the medical use of cannabis to be legalized in Kansas, one of only three state that allows no medical or recreational use of marijuana. Nebraska and Idaho are the others.
SHL members want the rights of grandparents protected and expanded when it comes to the placement, legal guardianship and adoption of grandchildren in need of care.
KANSAS ADVOCATES FOR BETTER CARE
KABC, which advocates for elders in care homes, wants residents of assisted living and home plus facilities in Kansas to have the right to appeal evictions. House Bill 2004, which was introduced last year and is known as Charlie’s Bill, would do that. It’s named for a man with dementia who died nine days after being forced to move from an assisted living facility. KABC notes that residents of nursing homes and traditional apartments have the right to challenge evictions.
Care home workforce
KABC opposes any proposal to make the use of temporary nurse aides permanent in nursing and assisted living facilities. TNAs have been allowed as an emergency measure because of the pandemic, to replace staff out with COVID-19. TNAs are provided with eight hours of online training compared to 90 hours for certified nurse aides, or CNAs.