2018 Colorado Legislative Preview

The legislative session for 2018 will commence on January 10, 2018. Everyone comes with an agenda. But in the end it is about allocation of resources.

As the Colorado Senior Lobby (CSL) approaches the session, we will be evaluating all submitted legislation to determine the impact on seniors and the services they rely on.

State expenditures for senior services, the major cost begins as a person approaches the age of 80. This is when a person’s need for in-home care or assisted living or nursing home care is most likely to start. Other services include (but are not limited to), nutrition, transportation, reliable, affordable housing, end of life expenses, and medical/prescription expenses not covered by Medicare.

The state demographer can predict with reasonable accuracy that the population of those 80 and older will approximately double in 15 years. This rate of increase is significantly larger than the rate of revenue forecasts. Because revenue cannot exceed the limits mandated by The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) the projects of the maximum available revenue available can be predicted with good reliability. So CSL will take this into account when analyzing bills submitted for legislative adoption. Our obligation is to not only prepare for the next year but, more importantly, educate the legislators to gauge the cost effectiveness of the legislation being evaluated.

Services provided to seniors need to be evaluated for their impact on available funds. This is a long-term legislative obligation. The formula is straightforward. Can we spend one dollar today to save two or more dollars next year, or better yet, save two or more each year for the foreseeable future?

While we are looking primarily at senior services, legislators are also considering education, transportation, Medicaid, and childcare to name a few of the many financial needs of the state. So the support for seniors needs to be evaluated as part of the “bigger picture”.

CSL is taking the lead in promoting a bill that would increase a benefit available to the most impoverished of our senior population. This is a tax credit for those with very low incomes. Even though this group will not be paying taxes, they can still apply for the credit and get a financial benefit. We believe this is important legislation. It fits our criteria. There is some documented evidence of the advantage of providing relief to those in need. Also, there is intuitive support for programs such as this.

We would expect this benefit would increase the nutrition of the elderly and/or the availability of needed medicines. This will then be a factor in better health, and less need for medical services, including transportation to get these services.

At the same time Medicare and Medicaid were being adopted, the federal government also approved the Older American’s Act. This mandated the establishment of state administered Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). Colorado has 16 AAAs located throughout the state. In many ways these are the state’s “boots on the ground”. They provide certain limited services, while funding many local providers. Funded services include Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance, in-home care, and many other services. They are also a valuable source for detecting elder abuse.

Federal funding for this program is uncertain at this time. But the state continues to fund the AAAs. For 2018 the governor’s budget includes an increase in funding of $4 million. This additional funding is important, but every year we still fall further behind.

This is an example of wise allocation of resources. Data is very limited on the benefits of services provided by the AAAs. But intuitively, these are programs that make people healthier, and better able to care for themselves. The result, is less need for more expensive assistance. And the services are provided by local businesses (including non-profits), giving an economic boost to local economy.

We would urge everyone to contact your Senators and Congresspersons to, as a minimum, keep the same level of funding for the Older American’s Act. But the need is to increase this funding, which will result in overall cost benefits in the future.

Article written By Ed Shackelford, President Colorado Senior Lobby – www.ColoradoSeniorLobby.org