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Saving Taxpayer Dollars, Investing in Quality of Life

In May, Governor Steve Beshear called for “citizen guidance” when he launched his Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. AARP Kentucky volunteers and staff responded by delivering clear recommendations for long-overdue improvements to the state budget. Improvements that will save taxpayer dollars while making a better quality of life available to all generations of Kentuckians.

According to the Governor’s news release, the Commission’s task is to “develop recommendations to make the state’s tax code more responsive to the ups and downs of the economy, as well as to make taxes more equitable for Kentuckians.” The panel is required to deliver its recommendations to the Governor by November 15, 2012.

AARP Kentucky volunteers and staff testified during the series of public hearings held across the state. In each presentation, AARP urged the Commission to closely examine the cost savings available by investing more in home and community based services for aging Kentuckians and reducing state Medicaid dependence on nursing home care.

A recent AARP nationwide survey of “not-yet-retired” baby boomers (age 50-64 year olds) focused on their most urgent economic concerns. In brief, the survey results shows one of boomers’ top concerns is their financial security during retirement. Boomers reported feeling increasingly worried about their future wellbeing in retirement. Six of 10 boomers said they’re worried about coming up short in their later years. Some 65 percent of the respondents report having little confidence in living comfortably in retirement. And more than half (59%) believe the economic downturn will force them to depend more on Social Security and Medicare.

Home and Community based services are cost-effective in helping Kentuckians live independently and stay in their own homes longer. These are services helping seniors stay out of nursing homes paid for by Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid budget remains out of balance, in part, because it pays out 81 percent of its long term care dollars to expensive institutional care and nursing homes.

According to a 2011 Metlife survey, the average cost for a semi-private room in a Kentucky nursing home is $69,000 a year, compared to an average of $17,000 for full-time, in-home Personal Care Attendant services.

In the long-run, increasing affordable home and community-based services is a win-win. It increases consumers' choices, improves quality of life for aging citizens, and saves taxpayer dollars.

The message to the Commission was clear: it’s time for Kentucky to better use existing state dollars and invest more in home and community based services. These investments will yield millions of dollars in savings to the state’s Medicaid budget while giving boomers real choice and options to age in their own homes.

Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson led the 23 member, non-partisan panel made up of six ex-officio state legislators, citizen advocates, with civic and business leaders. The commission’s members included: Roszalyn Akins of Lexington; Pat Mulloy of Louisville; Jason Bailey of Berea; Dr. Sheila Schuster of Louisville; Jim Booth of Inez; Stu Silberman of Lexington; Junior Bridgeman of Louisville; Dr. Lee Todd of Lexington; Rocky Comito of Shepherdsville; Leslie Weigel of Bowling Green; Luther Deaton of Nicholasville; John Williams of Paducah; Marion Forcht of Corbin; Joe Wright of Harned; Rick Jordan of Walton; and Cathy Zion of Louisville.

The Commission’s final report will make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly based on public comment, the strengths and weaknesses of today’s state tax system, other states’ success and more than a dozen studies and evaluations of Kentucky taxes completed since 1982.

See more on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform.

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