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Advocates Notch Significant Wins in 2011 Legislature

In the 2011 state legislative session, AARP advocates notched big wins on the issues Hawaii’s older adults care about most: financial security and health care.

See also: AARP Retirement Calculator

Throughout the session, AARP mobilized volunteers to push for the defeat of the pension tax. Their efforts were rewarded in May when the state Senate rejected legislation that for the first time would have taxed pensions in Hawaii. Gov. Neil Abercrombie had proposed a pension tax to help close the state’s projected $1.3 billion deficit over the next two years. AARP advocates opposed the legislation, in part, because taxing pensions retroactively would have been unconstitutional and an unfair change in public policy without adequate community discussion.

Volunteer advocates were also successful in pushing for $4.8 million in base-budget funding for the Kupuna Care, the home and community based long-term care program. Kupuna Care is a state-funded, county administered program that provides food, medical assisted transit, bathing and chore services for frail and home-bound Hawaii seniors. Without services like Kupuna Care—which is not a Medicaid program—many middle-income seniors would be forced into nursing institutions prematurely at three times the cost.

AARP also supported the establishment of a non-profit exchange to facilitate the purchase and sale of qualified health plans and the regulation of health plans in compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. This is big step toward ensuring that all Hawaii residents have access to affordable, quality health care. Passed by Congress last year, the ACA expands coverage for wellness and prevention under Medicare and prohibits insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage due to illness or a pre-existing condition.

A recent survey of AARP members in Hawaii suggests the significance of this year’s state advocacy successes. That survey showed that health and financial security are the most important issues in the lives of Hawaii residents age 50+. Over eight in ten adults 50+ say it is extremely or very important to have home and community-based long-term care services available in their communities.