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2011 Legislative Successes

In a challenging legislative session where no services or programs were immune to deep budget cuts, the legislature managed to soften the blow to Medicaid and some long-term and health care services.

Rather than 10% across the board cuts the legislature used a tiered approach, imposing smaller cuts to skilled nursing facilities and home and community based care providers with higher percentages of Medicaid clients. AARP South Dakota will participate in discussions throughout the remainder of the year as stakeholders look for long-term solutions to the state’s on-going challenge to fund Medicaid.

Despite budget cuts, the legislature approved funding for the continuation of the Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit. This once-a-year sales or property tax refund is provided to qualifying low-income elderly or disabled individuals. AARP South Dakota supported this measure as it has in the past because it provides an important benefit for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. An estimated 2500 individuals qualify for this tax credit each year and receive an average refund of $165.

The legislature also passed a mandatory reporting law for elder abuse. This law takes effect July 1, 2011. The new law requires licensed and unlicensed caregivers of the elderly to report suspected instances of abuse. The threshold for reporting is similar to the state’s existing laws for mandatory reporting of child abuse. AARP South Dakota supported this measure.

In another effort to protect vulnerable individuals the 2011 South Dakota Legislature also passed HB 1062, the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which protects the interests of incapacitated adults who need guardians to make key life-decisions for them. AARP had key reasons for supporting this bill, particularly around the issues of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

This legislation can reduce the incidence of elder abuse in a myriad of ways:

  • Reducing granny-snatching or the removal of a vulnerable person to another state to gain control over that person’s assets or life decisions
  • Permitting a court to consider which jurisdiction can best protect a person subject to abuse
  • Facilitating communication between courts in different states about allegations of abuse
  • Transferring cases between states to remove individuals from abusive situations

Starting July 1, individuals who take driver safety courses will no longer receive an automatic discount on their insurance premiums as a result of completion of the course. This is the result of the passage of HB 1034, which repealed all state law governing the administration and discounts offered through older driver safety courses.

Despite a concerted grass roots effort and AARP South Dakota’s strong opposition to this legislation, its passage by the South Dakota Legislature nonetheless rolls back several decades of incentives for older drivers to take driver safety courses.

Policy holders should not see any direct increase in their 2011 premiums but may see an increase in 2012 if their company previously offered a discount for completing a driver safety course. Policy holders are encouraged check with their insurance carrier to see how this may impact the cost of their individual auto policy.

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