The 2012 South Dakota Legislative Session is in the books. Issues dominating the session included education issues (most notably HB 1234) and Governor Daugaard’s various initiatives with an emphasis on improving our state's workforce, especially healthcare workers and rural workforce issues.
See also: Fact Sheet: The Health Care Law and Medicare
During the session, AARP South Dakota worked on several issues of interest to the states 50+ population.
Senate Bill 194 added additional funds to Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit, which provided property and sales tax relief to elderly and disabled individuals. This measure also revised income eligibility requirements allowing the program to help a greater number of people. Individuals 66 and older or receiving specific disability benefits and making less than $10,500 a year and multi-member households making less than $13,750 are encouraged to apply. AARP South Dakota supported this issue as we have in years past at it provides tax relief to some of the state’s residents who need it most.
AARP South Dakota also supported HB 1137 providing a one-time 3% bonus to certain Medicaid providers. HB 1137 combined with general appropriations amounts to $5.5 million in funds to restore some of the cuts to Medicaid providers passed during the 2011 legislative session. Providers receiving these one-time funds include long-term care, elderly nutrition, in-home services and community mental health centers. This measure ensures individuals who rely on Medicaid for their health and long-term care needs will continue to have access to care.
Senate Bill 196 addresses a moratorium on new nursing home beds in the state established July 1, 2005. SB196 allows the South Dakota Department of Health to shift unused beds from parts of the state with a lower need, to nursing homes in other areas of the state with a greater demand. The bill allows the Department of Health to define areas in need of beds and would call for proposals to address the need in the identified areas. Existing facilities that would increase their number of beds and new facilities constructed under this redistribution process will be required to maintain a certain percentage of Medicaid occupants to qualify. AARP South Dakota also supported this measure to ensure individuals have access to the care they desire, in a setting of their choice.
Throughout the session we had a great response to our “Questions of the Week” to ask lawmakers during legislative coffees and crackers barrels, or via email. We received a great deal of feedback from volunteers who helped keep these issues top of mind with legislators and demonstrated that AARP members were watching what happened in Pierre.