2013 Legislature disappoints older Floridians

Assisted-living industry looking bleak

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  • | 10:45 a.m. June 5, 2013
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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The 2013 legislative session was a disappointment for Floridians age 50 and older regarding health-care expansion and reform of the assisted-living industry. But lawmakers made positive steps by correcting mistakes in election law and banning texting while driving.

Some of the Legislature’s shortfalls on issues important to Floridians ages 50-plus included:

• Failing to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians of modest means. The House of Representatives failed to expand health coverage to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians, including as many as 260,000 Floridians age 50 to 64. Under federal law, Floridians could have gotten $51 billion worth of federal aid to expand health coverage under the Medicaid program. Instead, the House refused to accept federal funding for health-care expansion.

• For the second year in a row, legislative leaders failed to deliver legislation to reform oversight of the assisted-living industry.

However, the 2013 session did produce some gains for older Floridians.

• Lawmakers corrected some of the past mistakes in election law by expanding the number of early voting days and hours and limiting overly long ballot language in constitutional amendments proposed by lawmakers.

• AARP State President Jeff Johnson urged Gov. Rick Scott to sign into law a texting-while-driving ban, saying it was a “good first step” on an issue important to older voters. AARP and a broad coalition of groups have fought for the ban this year. Some 93 percent of Florida voters age 50 and older favored the ban.

• The state budget includes additional funding for 2,611 frail Floridians to receive services that can help them remain in their homes and communities rather than in institutional care. However, even with the additional funding, the number of seniors on waiting lists to receive home- and community- based services is nearly equal to the numbers of persons receiving those services.

• Lawmakers rejected harmful legislation that would have further restricted lawsuits by nursing home residents against nursing homes where frail residents suffer abuse or neglect.

Jeff Johnson is AARP Florida’s state director.