When state lawmakers convene January 9th for the 2017 legislative session, AARP Arizona will pursue an agenda that includes protecting retirement income, helping those needing long term care people stay in their homes , helping with out of pocket costs and easing stress for family caregivers and protecting seniors from financial exploitation.

AARP’s non-partisan Arizona policy priorities also include a focus on eliminating surprise medical bills, and utility services are affordable and dependable.

The 56th Arizona Legislature starts Jan. 9 and will address a host of major budget and policy considerations that are sure to have significant impact on older Arizonans. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership of nearly 38 million, including nearly 880,000 Arizonans age 50 and older.

AARP Arizona Director Dana Marie Kennedy and Advocacy Director Stephen Jennings will lead a team of policy experts who know their way around the Capitol. Among them are: Jan Lindsey, Marquetta White, and Dr. Leonard Kirschner. In addition, any number of AARP volunteers like Dan Martinez, the AARP Arizona President, will often be present during the extensive legislative session.

“Arizona lawmakers will have enormous opportunities in 2017 to make meaningful and enduring improvements to the lives of older Arizonans,” said Dana Marie Kennedy. “AARP will be a strong voice for consumers and older Arizonans as we work with legislators and Governor Doug Ducey on a host of issues that matter most to Arizonans.”

Here’s an overview of some of the issues thatAARP Arizona is discussing with legislators:

• Caregiver tax credit.  Family caregivers typically spend thousands of dollars of their own money on caring for loved ones.  AARP supports enactment of an annual tax credit to help caregivers better afford the vital care they provide.

• Respite Programs. AARP Arizona supports ongoing funding for programs that give caregivers a break to visit the doctor themselves, go to the store or attend a child’s school program. Respite funding provides caregivers with brief breaks or “respites” are an important and cost effective way to help family caregivers look after their own physical and emotional health.

• Home- and Community-based care services. These services enable seniors and those with disabilities to get the care they need in their own communities without being forced into a costly nursing home. Ongoing funding of home and community care services helps older Arizonans age in place, staying in their own homes longer.

More than 804,000 Arizonans are caring for a parent, spouse or other loved one as an unpaid caregiver. AARP Arizona is working with Arizona Hospitals on state regulations  that ensure caregivers receive demonstrations at discharge of necessary medical tasks to better know how to safely look after a loved one as they transition home from a hospital stay

• Retirement Security: To encourage individual responsibility in saving, AARP Arizona supports a legislative “work and save” proposal that would create a website to connect employers and workers with low-cost savings plans that allow voluntary payroll deduction and let workers take their savings to their next job. Action is needed because about 60% of Arizonans don’t have access to a workplace savings plan.

• Elder Financial Exploitation: Arizona lawmakers can reduce this growing type of elder abuse in the state by strengthening adult protective services , and training and empowering financial professionals to better identify and stop potential exploitation before it happens.

• Surprise Medical Bills: AARP Arizona seeks to protect people from surprise medical bills because the unexpected costs can drive even insured families into financial hardship. The Legislature can work to keep consumers out of medical billing disputes between insurers and doctors, and it can allow patients of neighborhood emergency clinics the right to challenge surprise medical bills.