... Work continues on priority measures
The Silver Legislature reconvened its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 21 in the Senate Reading room in the State House.
The status of our priority bills and informative reports from our committee chairmen were among the highlights of the meeting. Emphasis was placed on the support needed for passage of the bills prior to the end of the session on June 30. We worked all through January to secure more funding for the Choice Bill which would allow more elderly to remain at home and receive health care services. We collected hundreds of signatures from senior groups in our communities and delivered them to House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi. We asked the legislature to include the Senate's version of Section 11B of the Equal Choice bill as part of the final Health Care bill.
A legislative alert was presented by Silver Legislature president Sally Hoyt regarding the Equal Choice bill currently needing urgent support. The Equal Choice bill was released favorably from the committee on Elder Affairs and the committee on Health Care Financing. It has already passed the House. Chairman Susan Tucker, of the committee on Elder Affairs was extremely supportive of the bill and encouraged members of the Senate to do the right thing by the seniors of the commonwealth.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously and it is now with the Senate Ways and Means committee to work out the funding. We are hopeful that the Governor will sign the Equal Choice bill when it arrives on his desk. The funding will allow more of our elderly to stay at home and receive home health care services as opposed to going into a nursing home.
Another important issue addressed was the "user tax" fee being placed on the backs of patients residing in nursing homes and paying their own way out of their own pockets, yet have been paying as much as $4,000 more a year to be discriminated against. The unfairness and discrimination to nursing home residents who are considered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, as being disabled, has been a main focus with the Silver Legislature.
Senator Susan Tucker, chairman, spoke with great pride on the work that her committee accomplished by lifting the burden of private paying patients living in nursing homes. The bill received a unanimous vote and is now with the Health Care Financing committee to determine how to shift the funding from private paying patients. Congress has ruled that the purpose of the "user fee" tax was to charge those individuals who benefit from government programs.
However, private paying patients do not benefit from government programs. They are paying their own way out of their own pockets. The "user tax" fee should not be placed on the backs of nursing home patients because they are disabled. And the American With Disabilities Act prohibits the taxing of disabled persons.
Once the bill is favorably released from the committee on Health Care Financing it should go before the House and Senate for their vote. Support is imperative and we urge all of you to contact your legislator to support this legislation.
Unfortunately, at this time, we have to report the passing of one of our charter members, Silver Legislator Senator Mary Scrivano of Chelsea. Mary displayed a lifetime of dedication to the cause of the Silver Legislature since its birth and was present at every meeting always sharing her quips of keeping the faith, positive "stick to it" and never give up attitude, right up to the time of her passing in March. Mary was a member that will be sorely missed.
Silver Legislature Report - April 18, 2006
The Silver Legislature had its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, April 18 in the State House Senate reading room. There were two sides of the coin that were of utmost importance regarding the priority bills that were released favorably from their committees. However, to our disappointment was the negative response not to consider a repeal of the "user fee" tax burden placed on the shoulders of nursing home patients paying their own way.
Consequently, we are urging again all Silver Legislature advocates throughout the Commonwealth to contact their respective Senators and Representatives to re-think their position and be cognizant of the fact that this "user fee" is not only an unfair tax but an unlawful one which is considered a form of discrimination against the disabled by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Nursing home patients are classified as disabled and they should not be subject to this tax burden. None of us have a guarantee of being spared the life of a nursing home resident later on down the road. Will we want to be taxed $4,000 or more a year when we have legal protection against it? If so, that "apathy" and sitting back at this time will insure our getting it for us. Therefore it is imperative that seniors do not fall asleep at the wheel, but drive to repeal this tax.
Various issues and discussions were addressed by attending advocates and representatives. Silver Advocate Roseanne Greene from Melrose presented detailed information on the Medicare/Medicaid contracts regarding prescription drugs and the importance of reading and understanding the fine print when it comes to choosing a prescription drug plan for you. Other members presented issues regarding impaired vision needs, housing problems for the disabled and hearing aid cost assistance.
The next Silver Legislature meeting is on Tuesday, May 16th.
May 5, 2006