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Top Priorities for Texas Legislature

Long-term care, retirement benefits issues go before lawmakers

Thirty-seven states have a lower percentage than Texas of people with lighter care needs who are in nursing homes, according to a recent report released by the Commonwealth Fund, the SCAN Foundation and AARP.

"This means Texas is not doing as good a job as other states in screening and diverting individuals to community-based care, when it's appropriate," Fredriksen said. "Seniors want to remain in their own homes, and it's a lot less expensive."

She noted that programs that help provide home- and community-based care cost about a fourth as much as nursing home care.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, agreed.

"As our population continues to [grow older], it is vitally important for us to ensure that seniors have access to long-term care in a variety of settings," Nelson said.

Protecting state pensions

Another AARP legislative priority is to oppose any attempts to weaken or eliminate the defined benefit retirement pensions of public school teachers and state employees.

It's an issue with personal importance to Leonard Strub, 70, of Allen, a retired state university employee. When Strub was working, he put away savings in addition to his pension and Social Security, in order to have financial peace of mind for his retirement. But without the defined benefit plan from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, "I wouldn't be able to maintain my quality of life," he said.

"Folks who paid into public pensions took their job — and tended to take less pay than in the private sector — with a promise that if they gave so many years of service, they would get [a certain amount]," Fredriksen said. "We think it's important to keep that promise."

To volunteer to become an AARP Texas legislative activist, contact Amanda Fredriksen at Keep up with the latest legislative issues that impact you by signing up for the AARP Advocate email newsletter.

Louis B. Parks is a freelance writer based in Wimberley, Texas.

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