Legislature is Favorable to Seniors’ Needs
~ By Eileen Doherty ~
Denver CO – Once again the Colorado Legislature was favorable to the needs of Colorado’s older adults, as well as the Baby Boomers whose ranks are increasing the need for senior services. The Colorado Demographer’s Office projects exponential increases in the senior population in the next 20 years. Serving older adults was a priority for Gov. John Hickenlooper in this session as well as the legislature.
Under the leadership of a bill sponsored by Rep Dianna Primavera, D-Broomfield, Colorado will begin a studying the needs of older adults for the next 20-30 years. A Strategic Plan on Aging will be developed to analyze the data on the long-term impact of the demographic shift at the state and regional level. The Plan will develop options to improve the financial security and retirement preparation of the older adult population as well as look at ways to improve the infrastructure for long term care as well as in-home services. A gubernatorial appointed Commission will provide regular reports to the legislature starting in November 2016 with recommendations for legislative change.
The legislature continued the Property Tax Homestead Exemption for homeowners who are age 65 and over who have lived in their home for more than 10 years. Homeowners receive a 50% discount on the property tax that is owed on the first $200,000 of value. Individuals who have previously applied for the exemption do not need to apply. Those who have not applied should contact the county assessor by July 1, 2015 for an application on the amount due for the 2015 taxes paid in 2016.
Approximately $17 million was appropriated for the Older Coloradans Fund to support such programs as Meals on Wheels, legal services, home care, and service to serve low income individuals who are in most economic and social need. Funds are distributed through the area agencies on aging to local providers in the community.
Concerned that many providers who serve Medicaid clients limit the number of clients that are served, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, was successful with a bill in directing the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to do a study every five years to review the reimbursement rates of Medicaid providers. A bill to require that Medicaid reimbursement be at least 60% of the Medicare rate was killed in committee.
Starting July 1, 2014 many Coloradoans who witnessed or were of aware of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults age 70 became mandatory reporters. Individuals who are licensed by the State of Colorado as well as employees of agencies that are licensed are required to report to law enforcement. Law enforcement is required to investigate the cases and make referrals to the county Department of Adult Protective Services. Reporting, investigation, and prosecutions have risen dramatically during the past year. This year Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City was successful at expanding the requirement to include mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of anyone 18 and over who has a disability.
Recognizing the need for expanded health manpower needs in the area of oral care, Rep Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, carried a bill that passed to increase the responsibilities of oral hygienists to provide tele-health services for therapeutic restoration procedures for those needing dental care. Many rural areas of Colorado are underserved with few if any dentists to provide oral care. While the bill places some limitations on the duties of hygienists, it will make more services available to those needing oral care, which has become a priority for Medicaid patients, as well as seniors and children.
Many older adults are released from the hospital with a need for home care, according to a bill carried by Rep Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge. To reduce Medicare costs associated with hospital re-admissions, annually the Affordable Care Act assesses penalties to hospitals who have too many re-admissions. The role of home care in preventing re-admissions is significant. While Medicare gives beneficiaries the right to choose the home care agency, many hospitals have preferred arrangements with home care agencies. Under the bill that was passed, hospitals will be required to notify the patient or the legal guardian of discharge including home care options, to create a discharge plan that describes the aftercare based on the patient’s ability to reside at home or another residence, and to demonstrate the aftercare instructions in a culturally competent manner. Follow-up by the hospital is also required to ensure services are being received.
Recognizing the need for respite care, Rep Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, successfully won a study to determine the scope of services available in Colorado, the potential training needs of respite care workers, the availability of training within the state, and the possible need for certification or licensure of respite care workers. While the study will look at care for all populations, the need for respite care for those caring for elders is especially critical. The study will make its’ report to the legislature in January 2016.
Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge and Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs spearheaded a bill to allow pharmacists to substitute a biological product with another biological product pending Federal Drug Administration of the drugs. Pharmacists will report these substitutions to the physician writing the prescription to ensure quality of care. Senator Irene Aguilar, D- Denver sponsored bill that allows for therapeutic interchange or a therapeutically equivalent prescription for patients in nursing homes and long term care hospitals by health care providers with the input of a pharmacist.
For a more complete summary of the bills considered by the Colorado legislature and signed by the Governor, visit www.colorado.gov or call 303-333-3482.
Eileen Doherty, MS has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has almost 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at email@example.com
Colorado Gerontological Society
3006 East Colfax Avenue, Denver CO 80206 · 303-333-3482 · 303-333-9112 · www.senioranwers.org