Seniors Are Supported In Colorado
During these tough economic times, we must not forget Colorado's senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes and are especially affected by budget cuts. Many seniors unfortunately do not know what programs and benefits are available to them.
Here's just some of what Colorado does for our older citizens:
Tax Reductions and Tax Deferrals
Just recently, Kiplinger deemed Colorado a "tax-friendly destination for retirees" because of our low income-tax rate and various exemptions available to seniors. (Kiplinger.com's state-by-state "Guide to Taxes on Retirees") Colorado taxpayers 55 and older can exclude up to $24,000 of Social Security and qualified retirement income from state income taxes. There is no state inheritance tax, and the state estate tax does not apply to those who died after 2004.
If you are burdened with your current property taxes you can get help. The easiest way is to participate in your county's senior property tax exemption program. If you sign-up and receive and deferral you may not have to pay any property tax at all until you sell your house, or upon your death.
Also, remember that a portion of the cost of Long Term Care Insurance is tax-deductible.
Far Reaching Senior Services
In balancing last year's budget, we prevented many cuts and have fully funded senior programs such as those through the Area Agencies on Aging, state-funded nursing homes, and services such as long-term care, and in-home nursing services.
In recent years, we created programs to help seniors access Medicaid Part D, to locate those with Alzheimer's who have gone missing, to streamline eligibility for Medicaid benefits, and even to fund free fishing licenses!
Seniors can use all of Colorado's state parks with a $10 Annual Pass; they can ride public transportation for free or reduced rates; and they can get discounts everywhere from restaurants to banks to auto insurance.
Controlling Senior Utility Costs
Most of all, we worked to keep utility costs affordable for seniors. When energy prices were at an all-time high, we expanded the Low-Income Energy Assistance Funding Program -- or LEAP -- and the state's emergency Energy Outreach Colorado Program to help keep the heat on during the long winter months. The programs provide direct financial assistance and will also pay for energy-efficiency improvements.
Health Care for Seniors
We formed the Colorado Alzheimer's Coordinating Council to assess the current and future impacts of Alzheimer's disease in Colorado and to make a plan to help families and patients. Next year, there may be over 70,000 Coloradoans suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
We protected Medicare so that most seniors can get a free Hospital Insurance policy and low rates for the comprehensive Medicaid Part D.
We expanded the budgets for health services. House Bill 08-1108 helps seniors get the vital services they need to stay productive and independent for as long as possible. Specifically.
We added $3 million to the Older Coloradans Cash Fund which funds senior services like meals-on-wheels, shopping shuttles, and basic in-home care.
We passed the Safe Home Care bill to protect seniors from physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, and from fraud, crime, and medical negligence by monitoring all home health agencies.
Now it is easier to get and understand health care with simplified health ID cards and claim forms, as well as user-friendly Health Care Consumer Guides. And colon cancer screenings are now more affordable.
We passed bills to make prescription drugs affordable and insurance more accountable.
During these tough economic times I'm proud of what we've done for seniors.
As my colleague Rep. Jim Riesberg -- the legislature's only gerontologist!--says, "The General Assembly has stepped up to support our senior citizens and to protect the quality of life they expect."