AARP Alaska outlines its legislative priorities

Advocacy efforts for AARP state offices cover national, state, and local issues in accordance with AARP’s established policy guidelines. While the national office sets priorities for all state offices, each state also has flexibility to define priorities for local issues. Advocacy also goes beyond policy and lawmaking to include development of community coalitions, organized for specific purposes and shared goals. Most significantly, AARP Alaska advocates with the voices of its more than 90,000 members in the state.

National priorities

Social Security. Americans have earned the benefits and protections provided by Social Security. AARP supports efforts to preserve and strengthen this important source of financial security for older and disabled Americans. Social Security’s guaranteed, lifelong, inflation-protected Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance benefits should not be replaced by individual accounts financed with payroll tax dollars needed to fund current and future benefits.

Medicare. AARP supports adequate funding to continue to pay for seniors’ hospital care and to prevent increases in out-of-pocket costs, including incentives to providers for quality care, elimination of fraud and waste and improved access to care. AARP supports the elimination of the Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole.” AARP opposes Medicare means testing.

Affordable Care Act. AARP is committed to working to realize the promise of the ACA through its implementation even in the face of both the national and state fiscal challenges that pressure existing publicly funded health programs and priorities, and ongoing opposition to the law and its implementation among some national and state leaders as well as business interests affected by the reforms. Continuing to work to improve the quality and safety of health care and to raise consumers’ understanding of these issues is essential, even as we redouble efforts to achieve the goal of affordable health care for all. Unless the country can make progress on these key fronts, the problems with our health care system will become only more urgent.

Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS). AARP recognizes the important role of formal and informal caregivers in helping people remain independent. The design and delivery of all LTSS should promote consumer independence, choice, dignity, autonomy and privacy. The rights and wellbeing of LTSS consumers should be protected, and the role of family caregivers should be supported through policy and public/private financing.

Alaska priorities

Medicaid expansion. Despite the governor’s recent decision not to expand Medicaid eligibility as defined by the Affordable Care Act, AARP Alaska will continue to work with the coalition of organizations, businesses and providers who support expanded access to health care through Medicaid. This will be a prioritized focus during the legislative session and the 2014 election campaigns.

Uniform Power of Attorney (UPOA). AARP Alaska advocates for the update of existing statute to the uniform power of attorney, which strengthens Alaska’s ability to protect vulnerable adults by spelling out the duties of agents, protects third parties who have suspicions about the POA’s validity, and specifically allows the principal to delineate agent powers.

Retirement Policy and Pension Advocacy. AARP Alaska supports legislative authorization for a $3 billion contribution to the unfunded liability of the public pension fund as recommended by the Alaska Retirement Management Board.

Fair Utility Rates. AARP Alaska monitors proposed legislation and utility rate increase requests around the state (gas, electric, water and sewer, waste, communications) to ensure that consumers will be able to rely on the availability of safe, affordable and high quality utility and communications services. AARP Alaska opposes increases in rates that do not fairly distribute costs among customer classes or are discriminatory.

Community Coalitions and Collective Advocacy

Alaska Smoke-free Workplace. As a member of the steering committee for the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), AARP Alaska supports the right of all Alaskans to breathe smoke-free air. Legislation for a statewide smoke-free workplace law will likely be introduced during the coming session.

Affordable Care Act Educators. AARP Alaska hosts weekly meetings of individuals, organizations and businesses involved with public education about the ACA and enrollment of individuals and families in health care insurance plans. The coalition numbers more than 60 individuals from across the state and from state and federal government offices.

Alaska Nurse Action Coalition. AARP Alaska serves as a (non-nurse) co-lead of this group which champions the development of nursing practice and leadership in Alaska. Initiated at the national level by AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Alaska NAC has just been awarded a $150,000 State Implementation Program grant from RWJF, to help achieve the goals ANAC identified from the Institute of Medicine recommendations.

LGBT Elders. AARP Alaska, with leadership and support from the national office, is partnering with Identity, Inc., the LGBT community center in Alaska, to initiate conversation and awareness of the unique experience and challenge of growing old as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual. Significantly, AARP Alaska will participate in a presentation on this topic at the 2014 Alaska Public Health Summit in January.

AARP Alaska is a proud partner of the Alaska Commission on Aging, AgeNet, the Anchorage Municipal Senior Citizens Advisory Commission, and many other standing and ad hoc workgroups that collectively strive for the rights, needs, protections, and health of Alaska’s older population.

Ken Helander is the Advocacy Director for AARP Alaska.