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NCCOA Current News

November / December 2019

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  • State Receives Federal Grant for Partnerships to Combat Opioid Epidemic: Gov. Roy Cooper announced on November 25 that North Carolina has received a new federal grant that will help North Carolina partner with local justice systems — including local law enforcement, courts and others — to prevent opioid overdoses and connect people to treatment. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) was awarded $6.5 million over the next three years by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. DHHS will make grant funds available to a minimum of nine sites to implement evidence-based programs for people involved in the justice system based on a competitive application process. To read more about this, click here. (NC DHHS Press Release, 11/25/19)
  • Politifact Partnership: WRAL is now the official partner in North Carolina of PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize winning organization that fact checks the accuracy of claims made by elected officials and others on its Truth-O-Meter scale. WRAL's PolitiFact team will offer reports every weekday on the facts behind what politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle are claiming. (WRAL NEWS, 11/17/19)

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Archived News

October 2019

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  • Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) Runs October 15 – December 7: The annual OEP, provides the opportunity for seniors to sign up for Medicare or change the plan they already have. This year, there are several Medicare changes to be aware of in making decisions about plans. The biggest difference is the Medicare Part D coverage gap—also known as the “donut hole”—has been closed a bit. The gap refers to the out-of-pocket costs incurred by reaching a certain benefit threshold on medications. Medicare Part D beneficiaries can expect a 25% copayment/coinsurance for drugs from the beginning of their plan year after meeting any plan deductible until they reach the 2020 out-of-pocket spending limit of $6,350. After that, they pay 5% of drug costs. This limit is significantly higher than it used to be, and provides even more reason to shop around and compare prices. Another drug-related change is the approved list of drugs plans may cover. Both Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans may restrict coverage in very specific ways. For example, a prescription drug used to treat two conditions may be approved for only one condition under Part D. It is important to understand what plans cover. There is a new category of supplemental benefit that is offered in Medicare Advantage plans for chronic conditions. This new benefit can include anything the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services deems to have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the overall health or function of enrollees with chronic diseases. Since this is a new feature and the benefit is not required to be offered uniformly to all chronically ill enrollees, seniors should ask about it before deciding on a Medicare Advantage Plan. Read more on this subject page 5-6 of October News Edition.
  • U.S. House Committee Approves Dignity in Aging Act: On September 18, the House Committee on Education and Labor approved H.R. 4334, the Dignity in Aging Act of 2019, and advanced it to the full House with a recommendation to pass the legislation. This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the Older Americans Act (OAA) through 2024 and incorporates a number of improvements proposed by aging network partners. One of the most significant overall updates is the sustained growth in authorized funding levels. Read more on this subject page 6 of October News Edition.

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August / September 2019

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  • Election Security: The State Board of Elections voted on August 23 to certify new voting equipment from three companies, including machines that produce paper bar code ballots that advocates asked the board to reject over security concerns. The vote followed months of back-and-forth on the issue and negated a previous board move toward changing state rules to specifically require hand-marked ballots. New Chairman Damon Circosta cast the deciding vote, breaking with his fellow Democrats on the board and siding with its two Republicans. The vote was 3-2, and Circosta said after the vote that he had confidence in each of the new systems. (WRAL NEWS, 8/23/19)
  • Help for Rural Hospitals: The General Assembly is taking a second look at a loan program to help rural hospitals that are on the brink of closing. A proposed committee substitute for HB 704 has been approved by the Senate and sent to the House for action. HB 704 contains the original language from Senate Bill 681, the Rural Health Care Stabilization Act. SB 681 passed the Senate earlier in the session but the House tacked on two unrelated bills to it related to sales tax flexibility and utility accounts, and the Senate voted not to concur. "We feel very strongly that the bill needs to be addressed as a separate entity, and are sending it back to the House in this HB 704," said Senate leader Phil Berger. The new version of the bill would establish a loan program for struggling rural hospitals. The program would be administered by UNC Health and was written specifically to address concerns about a hospital in Randolph County closing in the near future. The original HB 704 dealt with dental patient rights, and it has already become law through its Senate companion version. (Lauren Horsch, THE INSIDER, 8/23/19)

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June / July 2019

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  • Legislative Session Winding Down: On July 10, a resolution (S.J.R. 688) was filed in the NC Senate to temporarily adjourn the General Assembly's long session on Monday, July 22, and to resume the session on August 27. House Rules Committee Chair, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) has said that although there is not a House adjournment resolution filed yet, he thinks the House is “pretty close” in agreement with the Senate adjournment resolution. If legislators and Gov. Cooper can't reach a compromise on the state budget this week, this resolution would allow them a month to continue negotiations.
  • Medicaid Expansion: A Republican compromise to Medicaid expansion (HB 655) was approved by the House Health Committee on July 9 with bipartisan support by a vote of 25-6. The compromise bill called "NC Health Care for Working Families," would cover persons 19 to 64 years of age with modified adjusted income less than 133% of the federal poverty level. It includes work requirements and under the proposal participants would pay 2% of their annual household income in monthly premiums. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, who is the chief bill sponsor, calls it an alternative option that "might fit North Carolina's culture." Lambeth said it would serve 300,000 North Carolinians who currently have no health insurance, and up to 500,000 total if everyone eligible uses it. Lambeth also noted that the benefit structure is tied to wellness and preventative care with patients being assigned a primary care provider. The work requirement is a key difference between this proposal and Gov. Cooper's Medicaid expansion. The bill has been placed on the House calendar for a vote several times, but House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, says that he will bring the bill up for a vote on the House floor only after there is a commitment to pass the budget. Medicaid expansion, or closing the coverage gap, is a priority issues for the Coalition on Aging this legislative session. (Travis Fain, WRAL NEWS, 7/09/19)

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May 2019

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  • Hurricane Recovery Money: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded slightly more than $336 million to North Carolina in response to damage caused by Hurricane Florence last fall. Gov. Roy Cooper says that the funding announced on May 14 falls short of the state's needs, and he is calling for Congress to pass additional disaster relief legislation. Cooper says in a news release that "far more is needed to help North Carolinians rebuild their lives and communities. The governor's office announced on May 13 that eight communities that were hard hit by Florence will get $2.7 million from the 2019 state Rural Housing Recovery Fund to help address affordable housing shortages. (Amanda Morris, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 5/14/19)
  • Wake Redistricting: The House Redistricting Committee met May 16 to begin the court-ordered process of redrawing four Wake County House districts. The legislature faces a July 1 deadline to approve new districts after the court sided last year with plaintiffs who argued that they violated a constitutional ban on mid-decade redistricting in an effort to give Republicans a boost as other districts were redrawn to address unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Legislators did not appeal the ruling. (Colin Campbell, THE INSIDER, 5/14/19)

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April 2019

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  • Advocacy by Friends of Residents in Long Term Care: On April 3 Friends of Residents in Long Term Care held an Advocacy Day at the General Assembly and over 80 people from around the state came to Raleigh to speak with their elected officials about the need to increase the personal needs allowance for adult care home and nursing home residents who are eligible for Medicaid and the need for additional support to hire more long term care ombudsmen. Click here to hear stories about these needs from some of those in attendance.
  • AARP NC Caregeiver Survey: A new survey of North Carolina registered voters ages 40 plus finds that the vast majority of respondents (83.5%) of current caregivers said that they will provide future caregiving or assistance on an unpaid basis to an adult loved one. It also found that over 95 percent think it is important to have services available in their communities to help older adults live independently. The survey of 800 registered voters conducted by AARP in February and March found that current working caregivers are feeling stressed (59.8%), with the primary cause of their unease being balancing work and family (66.1 %). AARP North Carolina President Dr. Catherine Sevier explains, “More than half (56 %) of current and former caregivers are taking care of parents, meaning that many have to balance the demands of work, their own children and other needs. That is why there is such strong support for simple measures introduced in the NC General Assembly that will make their labor of love less stressful and demanding.” Other than balancing work and family, the survey found that the other major sources of stress for current caregivers are getting enough rest (58%), finding time to exercise (51%) and difficulty maintaining a healthy diet (40%). A big challenge for most caregivers, is being able to provide care to loved ones so that they can keep living independently in their own homes (91%). Find out more by reading the entire April News Edition.

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March 2019

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  • President's Budget Request Cuts Programs for Seniors: The President's budget request was released March 11, and it proposes significant cuts to senior programs. Similar to last year, the FY20 budget request proposes eliminating Falls Prevention and CDSME funding at the Administration for Community Living. It also eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) would not be eliminated, but would be cut by $13 million—27%. Additionally, over 10 years, Medicare would be cut by an estimated $818 billion, Medicaid by over $1.5 trillion, and SNAP by $220 billion. Members of Congress have declared the proposal "dead on arrival," and aging advocacy groups will strongly oppose these major cuts to programs which older adults rely on. See a comparison of funding levels for FY18, FY19, and FY20 (proposed). (NCOA Week, 3/12/19)
  • Retiree State Health Plan Ruling: An appeals court ruled on March 5 that a former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice and other retired state government workers and teachers aren't exempted from paying health insurance premiums because they had a deal with the state to keep their benefits unchanged. The state Court of Appeals said retirees don't have a contract preventing them from being forced to pay part of their health insurance costs under a law passed in 2011. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that there is no contractual obligation limiting the State Health Plan covering more than 700,000 employees, retirees and their dependents. "Retired state employees are promised nothing more than equal access to health care benefits on an equal basis with active state employees," Judge John Tyson wrote in the ruling for himself and Judges Wanda Bryant and Robert Hunter. Retirees, including former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, sued in 2012 after the legislature directed the state employee health insurance plan to mandate that they make monthly contributions to receive what had been standard insurance coverage. The retirees claimed the state had agreed to a non-amendable contract that entitled them to premium-free health benefits for the rest of their lives under a health care plan in which the former workers paid 20 percent of their co-insurance. Retirees still have access to premium-free options in a 70/30 plan and, if qualified, to a Medicare Advantage plan. Active state employees have no premium-free health care options, the judges said. The appeals court reversed a 2017 decision by Gaston County Superior Court Judge Edwin Wilson that retirees had a contractual right to receive the standard coverage without a premium. State Treasurer Dale Folwell, whose office includes the State Health Plan, estimated in 2017 that with more than 220,000 people covered by the lawsuit, Wilson's decision could cost state taxpayers more than $100 million, plus much more to cover the higher cost for retiree coverage in the future. (Emery P. Dalesio, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/05/19)

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February 2019

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  • Coalition's Day at the Legislature: The General Assembly is back in full swing and now is the time to gather as a collective group to visit with state House and Senate members to talk about our five priority issues for this legislative session. Legislators have many issues competing for their attention so meeting with them to share key facts about the issues and to help put a face on aging in the state is an important step in our advocacy strategy. Join us for the Coalition's Day at the Legislature on Tuesday, February 26, and make your voice heard. For more details, read the entire February News Edition.
  • New Congressional Elections in Two Districts: The State Board of Elections called for a new election on in the 9th Congressional District on Thursday after Republican Mark Harris acknowledged the mounting evidence of ballot fraud in his race and said a new contest was needed. Read more about this in an article by WRAL Statehouse reporter Travis Fain. A new election was already needed in the state's 3rd Congressional District due to the Feb. 10 death of longtime Rep. Walter Jones, who had represented Eastern North Carolina in the U.S. House since 1995. Three Republicans have announced their plans to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat: Michele Nix, the vice chair of the NC GOP; Rep. Phil Shepard, a five-term state House member from Onslow County; and Rep. Michael Speciale, a four-term state House member from Craven County. Gov. Roy Cooper must set the date for these special elections.

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January 2019

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  • Voter ID: Senate Bill 824 (Implementation of Voter ID Constitutional Amendment) passed the General Assembly on December 6 and was vetoed by the Governor on December 14. Provisions of the legislation have been shared previously with Coalition members. The General Assembly overrode the Governor's veto, first in the Senate on December 18 and then in the House on December 19 at which time the legislation became law (SL 2018-144 ). The state NAACP and six of its branches filed a federal lawsuit the day after the bill became law, and six voters represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in state court minutes after the bill became law. The lawsuits have in common the contention that the law discriminates against minority voters. A new organization called Spread the Vote is beginning work in the state to help people get photo IDs. The organization works in five states and is expanding to seven more, including North Carolina, said spokesman Andrew Feldman. Spread the Vote works to get people the documents they need to obtain certain IDs. (Lynn Bonner, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 12/20/18). In the latest twist in developments related to the lawsuits, lawyers for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore filed a motion in federal court on January 14 to intervene in the lawsuit challenging rules to implement the new requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls. (Matthew Burns, WRAL NEWS, 1/14/19)
  • Coalition Joins National Coalition of Consumer Organizations on Aging (NCCO): Thanks to the assistance of Howard Bedlin, Vice-President for Public Policy and Advocacy with NCOA and keynote speaker at the Coalition's 2018 annual meeting, the Coalition was invited to join NCCO which is a NCOA collaborative network of statewide and community-based senior-based consumer organizations. Since 1996, NCCO has worked to bring together and strengthen grassroots senior consumer organizations to serve low-income and disadvantaged older persons. A benefit of being in the Coalition is having monthly conference calls where Howard shares information on federal developments related to aging issues.

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