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The legislative session just started with our swearing in ceremony on January 5, 2021 but the planning for the session has been in the works for some time since election day.
I was humbled that the Speaker and Majority Leader reappointed me to the State Government, Finance, Veterans Affairs and Emergency Affairs and Aging and Older Adult Services Committees for the next two years. Additionally, I was reappointed as the Majority House Member to the PSERS Board of Trustees where I was just reelected as Vice Chair of the Board by my fellow board members.
I am so honored to be able to continue to serve our district. We have so much to do to resolve some of the lingering problems in our Commonwealth and I look forward to addressing them.
For those of us on the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, we asked that we tackle some of the very difficult problems that must be solved before crisis takes hold for our seniors, their families and their caretakers.
Specifically, we pledged to address issues of improving reimbursement rates to our senior care facilities. Concurrently, we resolved to ensure effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to those seniors and the front-line workers who care for our seniors as well as address lockdown mitigation efforts and protection of our seniors from COVID-19 and other illnesses. Additionally, we all recognized the need to continue to focus on helping to address and prevent scans against seniors and all our citizens.
Prior to the pandemic, whenever I visited Londonderry Village, Traditions of Hershey, Cornwall Manor and other residences, long term care costs and outliving one’s assets in retirement or not being able to ever retire at all, is a problem facing thousands in our area.
Compounding these problems is that the reimbursement rates from Medicare and for many in our community, Medicaid, have not kept pace with the cost of care. This shortfall in funding has been made all the worse because of the horrible effects COVID-19 had on our care facilities to include mitigation costs, lockdowns and feelings of isolation of residents as well as the health implications of COVID-19 itself.
These issues are part of an entire series of hearings and meetings that our House Committee, Aging and Older Adult Services, are grappling with and trying to resolve in the last legislative session. Costs of senior programs in Pennsylvania have increased to $11.2 billion in the 2020 budget. We had expected costs to increase at a rate of $1 billion per year for the foreseeable future; however, the pandemic changed all that. At present, we anticipate that the cost of senior care for the 2021 budget will exceed $14 billion.
We had been working with the prior administration to seek additional reimbursement and will continue to work with the Biden Administration to address this critical funding issue.
A topic that has surfaced again is a significant shortage of workers in the long-term care industry such that throughout the Commonwealth there will be a shortfall of 37,000 health care workers by 2026. The next stimulus package being considered at the Federal level is expected to address some of these issues which we will monitor closely.
Many of our seniors have sent e-mails concerning the vaccine distribution plans for the Commonwealth. Specifically, for seniors the groups are Group 1A and Group 1B. The groups are fairly large but basically Group 1A includes residents of long-term care facilities and health care professionals whereas Group 1B includes those seniors aged 75 and older who are not in long term care facilities. Group 1C includes those seniors age 65-74 not included in groups 1A and 1B.
Due to the pandemic, we have been unable to hold in person senior scam seminars. We hope to resume these once COVID-19 is under control. We are also considering a virtual option and would welcome your feedback on a different format if the time horizon for doing in person visits is further delayed.
With senior scam prevention, it is useful to reinforce the best line of defense with this type of crime is still the individual. The better armed you are with information, the better we can defeat these perpetrators.
We are very fortunate that organizations such as Londonderry Village and Traditions of Hershey and others try to ensure that their residents receive information on such scams but no system is 100% scam proof and we must individually be vigilant.
There is also a great website at the Attorney General’s Office to guide you through the likely forms of scamming and to sign up for consumer alerts. The website is https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/consumer-alerts/ and it is a secure site at the Attorney General’s office. Pennsylvanians should also report scams by calling 800-441-2555 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or file a consumer complaint online.
As a senior myself and a CPA, I would encourage all Pennsylvanians to get active in these issues. Our Aging and Other Adult Services Committee will be continuing to work for resolution for the rest of this term and into the next term until the solution is found.
If you have specific concerns or questions, please call our offices so we can help you and your family.
Frank Ryan, CPA, Col USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel, a CPA and specializes in corporate restructuring. He serves as Vice Chair of the PSERS Pension Board and its Chair of the Audit/Compliance Committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.