With the 2012 legislative session on the horizon, AARP Illinois will be fighting for improved access to health care, more choices in long-term care, fairer utility rates and stronger consumer protections.
To help achieve these goals, AARP is asking members to get involved in advocacy and community outreach. Volunteers will discuss issues with legislators in Springfield and district offices, attend public hearings and other events, and write letters to the editors of their local papers.
For more information, call 1-866-448-3613 toll-free.
Crackdown on Abuse
A new state law backed by AARP could put more people behind bars for financially exploiting older or disabled Illinois residents.
Beginning Jan. 1, perpetrators who cheat such victims out of $50,000 or more can be indicted as class 1 felons, a charge that can lead to as much as 15 years in jail. Those who swindle between $5,000 and $50,000 can be prosecuted as class 2 felons, which carries a jail term of as much as seven years. Previously, the state set a threshold of $100,000 or more in financial damages for class 1 felonies and up to $100,000 for class 2 felonies.
Financial exploitation is the most commonly reported form of elder abuse in the state, making up nearly 60 percent of all reports. Financial abuse costs victims more than $2.9 billion each year nationwide.
As part of a coalition called Ratepayers Opposed to Automatic Rate Increases — or ROAR — AARP is fighting a renewed attempt to pass legislation (SB 1652) that would guarantee annual rate increases for the state's largest utilities.
Gov. Pat Quinn, D, stood ready to veto the bill in late August, but consumer advocates anticipated a move to override the veto when the General Assembly reconvenes this month. If passed, the bill would raise rates over the next six years, while diminishing regulatory oversight.
"At a time when consumers are struggling to afford basic necessities, it is simply wrong for ComEd and Ameren to attempt to use Illinois state law to guarantee themselves increased profit margins," said Scott Musser, an AARP associate state director.
Call 1-800-719-3020 to urge your senator to support the veto.
Rein in Rates
A bill backed by AARP aims to control runaway rate increases for individual and small-group health insurance plans to ensure families and businesses can get quality coverage at affordable prices. State residents buying health insurance on the open market saw their premiums increase up to 60 percent in 2010.
The bill would trigger a review of proposed rate increases and put the burden of proof on the insurance company to justify the need. Thirty states have similar laws in place.
"To overcome the objections of the insurance lobby in Illinois, we are asking members for grassroots support," says Bob Gallo, AARP state director. Call 1-888-616-3322 toll-free to urge legislators to pass the measure (HB 1501).