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In focus on our Friday rundown; two members of Congress are stepping down over sexual misconduct allegations; the BLM suspends natural gas waste standards; and we have a noted historian's take on the GOP Tax plan.

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AARP Ranks Wisconsin 6th in Nation in Serving Older Adults

AARP says 580,000 Wisconsinites are unpaid caregivers for a family member. (Matt Curdy/Getty Images)
AARP says 580,000 Wisconsinites are unpaid caregivers for a family member. (Matt Curdy/Getty Images)
June 14, 2017

MADISON, Wis. - While a new scorecard from AARP ranks the Badger State sixth in the nation in serving older adults and people with disabilities, it indicates that things could be done to improve the lot of family caregivers.

The vast majority of older Wisconsinites want to live independently, at home, as they age, said Helen Marks Dicks, AARP Wisconsin advocacy director. While the top-10 ranking is unquestionably something to be proud of, Dicks said, the discussion of cuts to Medicaid in Congress is troubling.

"Wisconsin has always been a leader in many of the aging programs, and we continue to be a leader," she said, "but we have to pay attention because if something happens and Medicaid funding is cut, we stand to lose a great deal of our advantage."

According to the scorecard, Wisconsin has made progress to improve long-term services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities, but Dicks said the proposals in Washington that would slash Medicaid funds would result in the most vulnerable citizens losing the life-saving supports they count on.

The AARP scorecard also pointed out that in less than 10 years, Baby Boomers will begin to turn 80, which will further strain the state's and nation's long-term care systems. Dicks said Wisconsin has done some good things for caregivers.

"We have 580,000 unpaid caregivers and we could do more," she said. "We have programs like the CARE Act, which has passed in 30 other states, that would help caregivers be better educated and better prepared to care for people."

Dicks said she is hoping the Wisconsin Legislature will consider joining the other states that have passed the CARE Act, which requires providers of health services to keep the caregiver informed and involved in treatment options.

Unpaid caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Wisconsinites, in part because the cost of long-term care remains out of the reach of most middle-income families.

"We could look at something like a caregiver tax credit because the average family spends at least $7,000 on the medical care of their loved ones beyond what is covered by any kind of programs or insurance," she said. "There are ways to support health caregivers that we haven't yet tried in the state, but we're moving forward on it."

The new AARP report is online at longtermscorecard.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI