2016 Legislative Highlights
The First Regular Session of the 127th Maine Legislature was a huge success for older Mainers. Legislators put bi-partisan issues aside to enact an historic number of laws and to fund necessary supports and services across the aging continuum. The MCOA took the lead in many of these bills and worked to defeat proposed cuts to the Medicare Savings Program in the Governor’s Budget. The First Regular Session also saw an historic convening – the first-in-the-nation Legislative Caucus on Aging led by Speaker Mark Eves and his caucus co-chair, Senator David Burns. The Caucus boasted more than 50 members from both parties. Unfortunately, the Second Regular Session was far less collaborative and many bills important to Maine seniors failed. However, the MCOA’s top goal of increasing funding for direct care workers was successful!
MCOA Legislative Priorities Enacted in the First Regular Session
- Increased funding for direct care workers: $4.1 million included in the FY16-17 budget for increased reimbursement rates for Section 19, 63 and 96 Personal Support Services workers.
- Increased funding for the Family Caregiver Respite Program: Enacted and funded $120,500 in FY16 and $126,772 in year two.
- Inclusion of home delivered meals a covered service under MaineCare: Enacted and funded $75,000 in each year; DHHS directed to file a waiver to allow home delivered meals to be a covered MaineCare service under Section 19.
- Increased inclusion of Caregivers in medical settings (CARE Act): Enacted to allow patients to designate a caregiver to receive information
- General fund bond funding for affordable senior housing: $15 million General Fund Bond authorized to build affordable senior housing, $500,000 to be used for home repair
- Increased funding for Private Nonmedical Institutions: Net increase of 3% included in FY16/17 Budget for PNMI and Adult Family Care Homes
- Improved Transit Services Statewide: Enacted; creates a Public Transit Advisory Council that includes an aging advocates
- Decreased Fees Charged for Security Freezes: Enacted to completely eliminate fees for Security Freezes
- Protection of Older Adults from Financial Exploitation (Money Minders): Enacted to allow money management services through AAAs; funded $75,000 each year.
MCOA Legislative Priorities Enacted in the Second Regular Session
- Increased funding for direct care workers: Additional $4 million (one-time) included in the FY16-17 budget for increased reimbursement rates for Section 19, 63 and 96 Personal Support Services workers.
- Increased funding for Maine’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program : Funded two new positions and authorized LCTOP to act as resource in discharge process
- Telecommunications attempt to avoid Provider of Last Resort defeated
2015 Legislative Highlights
What Happened: The First Regular Session of the 127th Legislature was a wild ride. We declared this session a win for Maine seniors because legislators put bi-partisan issues aside to enact an historic 16 laws. And–despite difficult financial and political times– they funded necessary supports and services across the aging continuum.
Specifically, the Legislature:
- authorized funding for Alzheimer’s Respite, financial management services, home delivered meals, senior housing, and home repair;
- increased MaineCare funding for direct care workers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes; and
- First-in-the-nation Legislative Caucus on Aging was launched by Speaker Eves and Senator Burns (over 50 members from both parties met five times over the session and tracked the 28 aging-related bills that made their way through the Legislature).
- Beyond Speaker Eves and Senator Burns, key legislative leadership on aging issues was provided by Linda Sanborn, Drew Gattine, Richard Malaby and Ellie Espling and all members of the Appropriations Committee—giant thanks to them all.
Who Helped: All this policy work was accomplished by a huge team effort led by M4A, AARP, and LSE with help from MAHC, MEJP, MHCA, Catholic Charities, Home Care Alliance, LTCOP and MAR. Special thanks to Community Member Judy Rawlings for testifying on MCOA’s behalf so many times!
Background on Legislative Priorities Development and Execution: MCOA spent the last two-and-a-half years working collaboratively with Speaker of the House Mark Eves and other members of both parties to elevate the conversation about the challenges and opportunities of our aging demographic. In 2014, Speaker Eves partnered with us to build the Maine Blueprint for Action on Aging (March) and to launch the Maine Aging Initiative (May). With input from Initiative workgroups and MCOA members, the MCOA put together an comprehensive legislative package that included 13 bills intended to further the work of the Initiative. MCOA members worked tirelessly to advance this package of bills. Ultimately, 9 bills were enacted and/or funded, 2 failed and 2 had alternative dispositions.
The MCOA provided testimony for or against an additional 11 bills, with favorable outcomes on all but Medicaid Expansion. Three bills were enacted that the MCOA did not weigh in on due to lack of resources. By the end of the session, the Legislature passed and funded 16 laws to help older adults age in place and access services across the aging continuum, including an Senior Housing Bond that includes funding for home repair. Also, the FY16/17 budget includes property tax relief by a doubling of the Homestead exemption and additional MaineCare funding for direct care workers, PNMIs and nursing homes.