Commentary: Seniors get attention at the Senior Legislature

Commentary: Seniors get attention at the Senior Legislature
April 06
13:00 2017

Althea T. Jones

Guest Columnist

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature (NCSTHL) held its first meeting of 2017 on March 14 and 15. The focus was on advocacy on behalf of older adults, with elected officials at the N.C. General Assembly. Ninety-six delegates and alternates attended.

Mary Edwards, a staff member from the Division of Aging and Adult Services, reported that 15 percent of the state’s population is 65 and over and by 2025, 20 percent will be 65 and over. She also stated that the governor’s budget included additional funding for the Home and Community Care Block Grant, which funds in-home services, transportation, and meals.

Dawn Oakley Gartman, Project C.A.R.E (Caregivers Alternative to Running on Empty) state director, with DAAS, advised that $500 vouchers are available statewide annually, to eligible caregivers in crisis. The program targets low income (non-Medicaid), rural and minority individuals caring for a person with dementia at home. Additional information is located at

Mary Bethel, chairwoman of the Coalition on Aging, representing more than 50 member organizations, listed a critical need for seniors as home care services. Home care agencies are challenged in recruiting as the pay is minimal.  If passed, H.B. 238 would provide for a minimum wage increase to $15 over five years.

Charmaine Fuller Cooper, AARP Associate State Director for Advocacy, advised that the newly proposed federal government’s health care act would impose an unfair and unacceptable age tax. Insurance companies could charge people between the ages of 50 and 64 (those too young for Medicare); five times what they can charge younger consumers. Currently that proportion is three times as much.

Vance Braxton, director/deputy commissioner, N.C. Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) stated that SHIIP served 105,078 people in 2016. The total federal budget for SHIIP across the United States is$52 million. North Carolina’s SHIIP program saved consumers more than that amount.

Braxton added that the MOON (Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice), addresses observation versus admission status. Medicare will not pay for observation, resulting in hundreds and even thousands of dollars incurred by individuals. Beginning in 2018, new Medicare cards will be issued without Social Security numbers listed. For more information or to contact a SHIIP representative, call 1-855-408-1212.

NCSTHL Priorities for 2016-2017 are:

1. Re-establish the Study Commission on Aging.

2. Increase Home and Community Care Block Grant

Funding by $7 million dollars in recurring funds.

3. Increase Funding for Senior Centers.

4. Sustain and Expand Project C.A.R.E in 2017-2018

by 10 percent annually and thereafter to meet the expected

growth statewide.

5. Strengthen and Fund North Carolina’s Adult Protective Services Program by $5 million in recurring funds.

The next NCSTHL meeting is scheduled for June 13-14 in Chapel Hill.

The NCSTHL promotes citizen involvement and advocacy concerning aging issues, by convening a forum modeled after the General Assembly. The morning of March 15 was spent at the State Legislative Office complex in advocacy for older adults and the 2016-2017 Priorities. Priorities and information were well received.

Dr. Althea Taylor-Jones, PhD, is speaker and Forsyth County Delegate to the NCSTHL. Contact her at or 336-996-3866. You may also contact the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Area Agency on Aging at or 336-904-0300. Please visit the North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature web-site at

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