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OR Lawmakers See Their "Shadows" Today

February 2, 2012

SALEM, Ore. - On this Ground Hog Day, almost every Oregon legislator will see their "shadows" at the state Capitol – in the form of constituents who have come from around the state for Senior Lobby Day.

Seniors, people with disabilities, their caregivers and advocates are asking that no more cuts be made to home- and community-based care services. They're backing up their message with an independent consultant's report which details how the state could save and raise more money in order to prevent further cuts.

So far, says Rick Bennett, AARP Oregon's director of government relations, lawmakers' reactions to the report have been positive.

"We put it all on the table. It doesn't necessarily suggest that AARP or any other member of our coalition has a position on a specific option. We're basically saying there's other choices here, and let's look at them and try to maintain these essential services."

The report from Health Management Associates, an independent consulting firm, says Oregon has fewer nursing home beds per capita than almost any other state - and a national reputation as a leader in home- and community-based care. With one out of five Oregonians age 60 or older, Bennett says it's important to shore up the system that encourages alternatives to nursing homes.

"Because we have such a model system, finding additional ways to either improve or enhance the system is not easy. But we think it's certainly - because of our long history in this regard - something that needs to be sustained, for now and in years to come."

In this short session, Bennett says, lawmakers are expected to wrap up last year's business rather than tackling any big new initiatives. Home-care hours for low-income clients were cut by 10 percent as of Jan. 1.

Suggestions in the report include taxing more types of health services - including dental, optometry and chiropractic care - and ways the state could increase the federal matching money it receives. The report is online at saveoregonseniors.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR