As Florida lawmakers tackle another year of dreary state fiscal conditions, services vital to older Floridians and protections for consumers of all generations are under pressure in Tallahassee. AARP Florida volunteers and staff will be fighting hard for the interests of 50+ Floridians as the session gears up in January.
“This will be a tough session,” predicted AARP Florida Interim State Director Jeff Johnson. “From consumer protections on utilities issues to restoring safe nursing-care standards to Florida nursing homes, AARP will be working hard for our members and Floridians of all generations this year.”
Among the top issues AARP will be working on:
- Restoring state nursing-home care standards, which legislators lowered last year. Late in the 2011 legislative session, Florida lawmakers pulled a unpleasant surprise – they relaxed state standards for the amount of hands-on care that nursing homes must provide to residents. The lower standards came at the same time legislators cut funding for nursing homes through the Medicaid program.
- In 2012, AARP Florida will fight to restore care standards and to protect resources for all services that help frail, older Floridians and their families cope with chronic illness and long-term care.
- With Florida’s state budget continuing to shrink after dismal state revenue projections, AARP Florida is preparing to fight hard to protect services that help older Floridians remain independent, in their homes and communities.
- AARP advocacy has been one factor in helping keep many of those services from the worst budget cuts in recent years. With the state’s budget entering its sixth straight year of fiscal shortfalls, AARP Florida expects the budget ax to fall hard on these services – even though keeping frail older people in their homes and communities is far less expensive for taxpayers than care in institutional settings.
- Independent observers, and even some legislators, rated Florida’s 2011 legislative session as one of the worst on record for the state’s consumers. Legislators eliminated all state consumer protections for residential telephone customers and nearly passed legislation that would have socked consumers with extra costs for renewable-energy initiatives.
- In 2012, AARP Florida will be battling once again to protect consumers. Legislative observers expect another push to shift costs for renewable-energy projects to ratepayers.
- A blockbuster Miami Herald investigation in 2011 linked lax regulation of Florida assisted-living facilities with deaths and injuries to scores of residents. Some even died from poor care or neglect, the paper charged. Now a state task force is examining changes to state regulation for assisted-living facility residents. AARP Florida experts are taking part in the task force’s work and will be pushing legislators to improve protection for frail assisted-living residents.
- Florida lawmakers adopted a far-reaching plan in 2011 to put all Floridians receiving care through Medicaid into managed-care plans. Over AARP’s objections, the plan calls for managed-care insurers to assume responsibility for frail older people starting in 2013, including those living in nursing homes – a group with whom managed-care companies may not have experience. Under the plan, managed-care companies will choose where you could receive long-term care and how much care you could receive.
- AARP Florida will be working to protect frail older Floridians’ ability to choose as the state moves forward with Medicaid changes.
Stay in touch with AARP’s advocacy on behalf of Floridians of all generation, please visit the AARP FL website often during the legislative session.