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The 2010 legislative session has come to a close and the dust has settled on several key pieces of legislation that deliver good news and bad news for people across the state. Here’s AARP Idaho’s list of the 2010 Legislative Session Winners and Losers.
- Idaho State Retirees: A cost of living adjustment in tight times for the elderly. After a hotly contested debate over a modest 1% COLA, Senator John Andreason refused to give House Concurrent Resolution 42 a hearing, effectively delivering the increase to 38,000 state retirees. The resolution marked the first time in Idaho history the legislature challenged a recommendation by the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) board.
- Grandparents: First in line to care for a child removed from their parent’s care. House Bill 610, introduced by Rep. Sharon Block, places grandparents at the top of the list for consideration as foster parents when children have been removed from their parent’s homes, expedites the process, and gives grandparents better legal standing to obtain custody. Signed into law.
- Older Drivers: Family is focus of older driver issues. When a doctor thinks a patient should no longer be driving, they can contact the Idaho Dept. of Transportation and recommend their license be revoked. Senate Bill 1397 now puts patients first, helping them and their families have a conversation with the physician about the concerns and options before any action. The bill passed the Senate, and is expected to be taken up next legislative session.
- Idahoans struggling with high health care costs: A roadblock to relief when Idahoans need solutions. The Idaho Health Freedom Act (House Bill 391), introduced by Rep. Jim Clark, spends $100,000 or more on a lawsuit against the federal government that stands little chance of success, could cost Idaho its federal health care matching funds of $1.6 billion, while keeping Idahoans from benefiting from measures that provide affordable access to health insurance and closes the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole.” Signed into law, bad policy delivers bad news.
- Living wills, advance directives, or other end of life instructions: Learn someone else’s conscience on your deathbed. The Freedom of Conscience bill (Senate Bill 1353), introduced by Senator Chuck Winder, allows all health care professionals; to refuse to provide any “end of life care and treatment” that violates their “conscience.” That means living wills, advance directives, or any other end of life instructions can be ignored. Despite calls from thousands of AARP members in opposition to the bill, it became law.
- Children, families & the elderly: Idaho’s Medicaid safety net grows weaker. As more Idahoans are forced to turn to Medicaid for health care services, $22 million in cuts (over $100 million coupled with the federal matching funds) means services and access get scaled back, pushing residents into emergency rooms to receive basic health care. More cuts to health care providers who deliver critical community based services could prematurely force some older Idahoans into costly nursing homes.