Press Release - Fogarty Unveils Plan to Help the Greatest Generation Fight Back Against Drastic Republican Programs
Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Fogarty today released a plan aimed at helping seniors fight back against the drastic policies of Governor Donald Carcieri and the Republicans in Washington. The plan continues Fogarty's recognized effort to support Rhode Island's seniors.
The plan is aimed at continuing Fogarty's ongoing work to ensure Rhode Island Seniors have the help they need to remain independent and financially secure while containing the rising cost of long-term care to taxpayers.
"Each generation has a responsibility to those who came before them. Our seniors fought to keep this country great; sacrificed to protect its freedoms and built the most prosperous economy in the world. We owe them an enormous debt and I will not let them down when they are in need," Fogarty said.
Fogarty noted that cuts to programs under Governor Carcieri, such as the copay program freeze, and the disastrous Republican Prescription Drug plan out of Washington have left many seniors struggling to keep their heads above water.
"It's simply heartless that the governor and his Republican pals in Washington would choose to cut programs for those who have sacrificed so much or to take such measures as to put the profits of the big drug companies above seniors," Fogarty said.
Under the Fogarty plan:
1. Making Rx Drugs Affordable
* Fill Medicare Part D Gaps with HOPE RX
Rhode Island needs a program that will help low-and moderate-incomes seniors pay for premiums and large gaps that are the unfortunate hallmarks of Medicare Part D. HOPE Rx is Charlie's plan to do this and is a critical part of his HOPE HEALTH Plan for universal health coverage. When Congress passed Medicare Part D in 2003, Charlie Fogarty voiced his opposition. It had too many gaps and he saw it as a bonanza for the nation's drug companies and health insurers. Unfortunately, too many seniors are finding out he was right. Drug company profits continue to soar and some seniors are paying more for drugs under some Medicare Part D plans than the lowest retail prices available. As Governor, implementing HOPE RX, will be one of Charlie's top priorities. Most New England states are helping their seniors fill the gaps in Medicare Part D. It is time for Rhode Island to do the same.
* End Drug Co-payments for Seniors on Medicaid Living in Community
Seniors on Medicaid living in assisted living or who have home care must now pay co-payments for their prescriptions under new state and federal laws. Seniors in nursing homes do not have to pay these co-payments. This can force some seniors into nursing homes at much greater costs to the state. Charlie has petitioned Congress and the federal government to end this unfair practice. As Governor, Charlie will continue to urge Congress to change this regulation and he will provide funds in the state budget to ease these burdensome co-payments.
2. Improve and Innovate Senior Transportation
Charlie believes it's time for an audit of the state's para-transit program for seniors and persons with disabilities (RIDE). Meeting the transportation needs of seniors is critical to their ability to remain independent. Funded through a dedication of one cent of the gas tax and a state appropriation, the program offers subsidized trips for a limited number of purposes. Because of its limited availability, seniors and other have to book rides two to four weeks in advance for medical trips. We must take an in-depth review of RIDE to make sure it is run in the most efficient and consumer friendly manner and that it coordinates well with existing community-based and volunteer transit programs. The audit will include RIDE customers in evaluating the system's strengths and weaknesses.
It is also critical to find innovative ways and partnerships to address these gaps in senior transportation. One promising system under exploration is a model developed in Maine called the Independent Transportation Network (ITN). A fee-based system built around privately donated passenger cars, the ITN uses a combination of paid and volunteer staff to provide next-day service. A demonstration of ITN has been started in Florida. Charlie will provide a planning grant to develop a plan for a similar program in Rhode Island.
3. Adopt COMMUNITY FIRST as State Long-Term-Care Policy
Current state policies can act as barriers to persons seeking home and community care. Charlie believes we must adopt COMMUNITY FIRST as the state's policy for long-term-care planning. COMMUNITY FIRST means that all the pieces are put in place to support home and community care services, including those services that help families keep elder loved ones at home. We must also work to continue to ensure our nursing homes are providing quality care.
Specifically, we must offer home and community care providers fair reimbursement and institute an annual cost of living adjustment so they can be competitive in recruiting qualified staff. We must implement the law Charlie passed in 2004 that mandated the state put in place a systemwide, long-term-care entry system to ensure that all seniors are assessed fairly and informed of the full range of long-term-care services - notably home and community care programs.
We must find innovative ways to help seniors remain in subsidized housing by developing a model to bring supportive assisted living services to elderly housing. We must also review the asset policy for Medicaid home and community care waiver programs to determine if the current $2,000 asset limit is reasonable, or if it is forcing some seniors into expensive nursing home care. And as Charlie Fogarty makes budget recommendations, he will adequately fund programs that allow seniors to stay in their homes - programs such as Meals on Wheels, respite care, adult day services and assisted living.
4. Support Older Workers by Eliminating Social Security Offset to Unemployment Insurance
The increase of older workers who choose to work during their retirement years makes it critical to ensure they are treated fairly in the workforce. Currently, Rhode Island is just one of seven states with laws that offset "Social Security" benefits against unemployment benefits. This offset can dramatically reduce the unemployment benefits that a retiree on Social Security might otherwise be entitled to receive. Rhode Island law provides for an offset that reduces unemployment benefits by one-half a person's Social Security benefit. Charlie supports legislation that would phase out and eventually eliminate this offset as is being done in states across the country.
5. Continue to Reform Property Taxes
Charlie recognizes that property taxes are a severe burden to Rhode Island seniors who wonder if they will be able to keep their homes as property taxes continue to skyrocket. That is why he has supported the Circuit Breaker tax credit for seniors and this year fought for legislation to control property taxes. Charlie will continue to fight for the expansion of the circuit breaker tax credit for seniors and encourage local communities to implement programs that would defer increases in property taxes for seniors until the sale of their home.
Recognized Leader on Senior Care Issues
Fogarty has long been a recognized leader in senior issues. As Chairman of the Long-Term-Care-Coordinating Council, Fogarty led the efforts to shape a long-term-care system that promotes quality; gives consumers greater long-term-care choices; supports family caregivers and brings value to state taxpayers.
Some of his more notable efforts include, but are not limited to:
* Public reporting of nursing home and home care quality
* Increased funding for Meals on Wheels
* Greatly expanding the state's prescription drug program for seniors
* Funding to monitor long-term care programs and to expand ombudsman services
* Ending the 2004 "freeze" in the home and community care co-pay program which caused hundreds of elders to wait for services and forced some into costly nursing home
* Formed and led the Hillside Health Center Task Force that resulted in comprehensive reforms and the further exposure of corruption by owner Antonio Giordano. Giordano is now serving a federal sentence in connection with this and the state is pursing charges for Medicaid neglect and fraud.
* Opposed President Bush's plans to privatize Social Security and passage of Medicare Part D due to its huge coverage gaps and prohibition against government being able to negotiate better prices from drug companies.
* Mandating notice when "violent," convicted offenders live in long-term-care facilities.