The 2010 Legislative Session in Connecticut, which ended at midnight on May 5, 2010, saw the passage of numerous bills that will benefit AARP members and all older adults in Connecticut, including bills that protect older adults ability to receive care in their homes and communities as they age; make significant strides to lower electric rates; protect consumers, hospital and nursing home patients; and crack down on unethical behavior by drug companies.
AARP Connecticut’s top priority in 2010 was the reduction of an onerous additional 15% cost-share that had been charged to clients in the state-funded Home Care Program for Elders beginning in January. The final budget passed by the House and Senate on May 5, 2010 reduced this cost-share to 6%, a 60 percent savings! This reduction will not only enable hundreds of frail seniors to stay independent and continue to receive care services in their homes, but by helping seniors delay or avoid costly nursing home care, it actually saves the State money in the long-term.
In addition, AARP’s work with the Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and other community organizations convinced Governor Rell to re-open the Alzheimer’s Respite Care Program on May 1, 2010. The program provides critical respite services for family caregivers caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. The program was closed by the Governor in May 2009, and more than 400 people had been waiting to receive services.
AARP also successfully fought against legislation that would have allowed nursing homes to kick frail elders out of their facilities for failure to pay applied income, even if the failure to pay was the result of a legal dispute or otherwise beyond the control of the patient.
AARP Connecticut State Director Brenda Kelley said, “On behalf of our nearly 600,000 members in Connecticut, AARP would like to thank the many community organizations, volunteers and advocates that worked with us to ensure the interests of older adults were heard, and listened to, by our state legislators, especially during such a difficult budget year.”
A number of additional bills championed by AARP were passed during the 2010 Legislative Session and have been sent to the Governor for signature. These bills include:
S.B. 493 - AN ACT REDUCING ELECTRICITY COSTS AND PROMOTING RENEWABLE ENERGY. The bill contains important provisions aimed at reforming the way Connecticut procures energy and sets a goal of reducing electricity rates by 15% for all consumers, including those who buy electricity from a competitive retail supplier. For low-income households, the bill establishes a discount electric rate funded largely through existing low-income programs. The legislation also protects consumers who buy electricity from a retail electric supplier from unscrupulous, aggressive marketing practices. (Note: This bill was vetoed by the Governor on May 24, 2010.)
In addition to directly tackling high electric rates, the legislation also includes provisions expanding use of solar power, fuel cells and other clean and renewable energy systems, as well as extending clean energy financing help to consumers. The bill authorizes the creation of a consumer loan program to assist homeowners in replacing inefficient oil and natural gas burners in order to reduce heating bills.
S.B. 428 - AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH RELATED STATUTES (as amended) - The bill requires drug companies and medical device manufacturers to implement a standard code of ethics and provides more transparency surrounding gifts and payments to doctors.
S.B. 248 - AN ACT CONCERNING ADVERSE EVENTS AT HOSPITALS AND OUTPATIENT SURGICAL FACILITIES. The legislation aims to provide better information to patients and the public regarding the occurrence of adverse events, including health care –related infections, in Connecticut hospitals and gives the Department of Public Health new enforcement authority. It requires DPH to conduct regular audits and prepare an annual adverse event report with specific contextual information about the hospital and outpatient facility so that the public can make more informed decisions about where and how to receive care.
S.B. 190 - AN ACT CONCERNING A FOUR-HOUR ACCIDENT PREVENTION COURSE FOR OLDER DRIVERS. The bill establishes a 4-hour driver safety course in Connecticut and extends the mandatory insurance discount for older drivers, age 60-plus, who complete the course.
S.B. 187 - AN ACT INCREASING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE NO SALES SOLICITATION CALLS ACT. Older Americans continue to be a target for telemarketers and scammers. This bill increases the penalties for willful violations of the state no sales solicitation call statute to bring them in line with penalties under the federal do not call registry.
H. B. 5235 - AN ACT REQUIRING THE PROVIDING OF CERTAIN INFORMATION UPON CERTAIN DENIALS OF HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE. This bill is designed to inform consumers of the right they have to appeal denials of health insurance coverage through the Office of Healthcare Advocate. It requires insurance companies to inform consumers of their rights at the time of denial and provide them with the contact information for the Office of the Healthcare Advocate. STATUS: This bill has been signed by Governor Rell.
H.B. 5372 - AN ACT CONCERNING VISITABLE HOUSING. The bill addresses architectural and design obstacles that make it difficult for nondisabled individuals to accommodate visits from older friends and relatives, who need basic accessibility. It authorizes a program to encourage Connecticut developers to build residential homes that are easy for people with disabilities to visit (commonly known as “visitable” housing) and defines “visitable housing”.
To check the status of bills, visit the General Assembly website.
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General Assembly website