From the Office of State Rep. Phil Haire
Seniors have helped make North Carolina a place that is growing and vibrant and have been leaders through many difficult times. During the past term in the General Assembly, several initiatives were put into place that will, hopefully, keep these important members of our society healthy, safe and financially secure.
Below are a few highlights of this work in the past two sessions, as well as some information from the 2010-11 Budget.
_ The General Assembly has directed several agencies to begin better preparing for the aging baby-boomer population. The law (SB 195 – SL2009-407) directs the University of North Carolina Institute on Aging and the Division of Aging and Adult Services to organize meetings of gerontologists, researchers and others to identify and prioritize issues the state will have to address. It also calls for the development of a website with information about how serve increasing numbers of adults.
_ The Division of Aging and Adult Services has been asked to study the issue of criminal history record checks for owners, operators, volunteers, and prospective owners, operators, and volunteers in adult day care programs and adult day health services programs. Among other things, the legislation (HB 1703 -SL2010-93) specifies that the study should identify which positions warrant a background check, develop a process for conducting the checks and designate who is responsible for requesting and paying for the check.
_County Departments of Social Services have been directed to conduct follow-up monitoring of adult care homes (HB 1186 – SL2009-232). The law is meant to improve patient safety by improving oversight of adult-care homes.
_ Legislation to establish a long-term care partnership program was passed (SB 1193 – SL2010-68). Under a partnership program, a person who purchases a qualified long-term care insurance policy that provides a certain dollar amount of benefits will be allowed to disregard assets equal to the insurance payout when applying for Medicaid. States that have initiated a partnership program have found that this encourages people to plan for their long-term needs and also results in savings to their state Medicaid programs.
_ Several recommendations made by the N.C. Study Commission on Aging to expand dental care services for older and disabled North Carolinians with special care needs were approved, including having state agencies look at Medicaid reimbursement for certain services and coordinating workforce efforts to increase the number of dental care providers serving persons with special care needs. (SB 188 – SL2009-100).
_Automated calls to protect the public health, safety, or welfare are now allowed under a new state law (HB 1034 – SL2009-364). The system will be used to inform people that they have purchased products or medication that may be subject to a safety recall; that the person has not picked up a filled prescription drug or that one of their accounts may be subject to potential fraudulent activity. The calls cannot be used for any commercial purposes.
_The Division of Emergency Management is establishing a voluntary registry that counties and municipalities can use to identify functionally and medically fragile people during a disaster under a new state law (SB 258 – SL2009-225). The law also authorizes counties and municipalities to operate similar registries.
_A new law was passed to clarify that a Silver Alert may be issued for a person of any age (HB 1129 – SL2009-143). The Silver Alert System is a statewide system used to notify people about missing persons believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments.
_The Statutory Homestead Exemption has been increased under a new state law (HB 1058 – SL2009-417). Qualified people aged 65 or older qualify for the exemption, which increased from $37,000 to $60,000.
_ $100,000 was approved to support Project C.A.R.E., the respite care and support program for families caring for persons with Alzheimer’s.
_ Funding for optional services under Medicaid (such as dental care; eye care and eyeglasses; occupational, physical, and speech therapies; hospice; prosthetics and orthotics; community alternative program; and rehabilitation services) for aged, blind, and disabled adults was preserved for the most part. The one area in which there was a significant cut was to Medicaid personal care services which provides in-home help to disabled and frail older adults. This program received a recurring cut of $50.7 million. The program had been criticized for allegedly serving people who did not meet the specific disability criteria and for providing more hours of service for people than what they needed.
_ No additional funding was appropriated for the Home and Community Care Block Grant, but no money was cut, either. The program helps older adults stay in their homes.
_ $450,000 was appropriated for the operation of the Stroke Advisory Council, the continued implementation of the public awareness campaign and identification of stroke rehabilitation services throughout the State.
_ $150,000 was authorized for a grant-in-aid to Prevent Blindness of North Carolina.
_ $50,000 was provided for a non-recurring grant-in-aid to NC Arthritis Patient Services is provided for in the budget.
_ The latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that North Carolina led the nation in employment gains from July to August with the addition of 18,600 jobs. The report also points out that our state ranked fourth among the states in employment gains from August 2009 to August 2010 with 36,700 jobs. We were third in the nation in over the year jobless rate with a decline of 1.2 percentage points.
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Rep. Haire and Legislative Assistant, Sara Jane Lennard,
may be reached at
300 N. Salisbury St., Room 639, LOB
Raleigh, NC 27603, 919/715-3005, firstname.lastname@example.org