Stillwater — The Oklahoma Silver-Haired Legislature had successes in the 2019 state legislative session that concluded in May.
Silver-Haired Legislators advocated from all across the state — Woodward to Idabel, Hennessey to Tecumseh, and Nowata to Lawton. Three of the four bill concepts that the OSHL proposed to state legislators this year passed the Oklahoma House and Senate, but only two were signed into law.
One OSHL bill, House Bill 1205, passed both the House and Senate, but the governor vetoed it. The bill would have created a one-year task force to determine if an ombudsman program would be feasible to protect Oklahomans receiving in-home or community-based long-term care. Instead, Gov. Stitt has tasked his cabinet and agency directors to ensure the safety of these Oklahomans and work with the authors of this legislation to implement any necessary changes discovered through their review. Another bill that provided a sales tax exemption to Oklahomans purchasing hearing aids failed to advance in the state Legislature. The OSHL plans to pursue this issue during future legislative sessions.
Senate Bill 990, carried by Sen. Paul Scott and Rep. Brad Boles, was proposed by Oklahoma Silver-Haired Sen. Haljean Gillispie of Duncan. It requires insurance companies that sell Medicare supplemental insurance plans to increase plan premiums no more than once per year and only during the Medicare open enrollment period. This will end the “bait and switch” tactics that some insurance companies have used in the past.
Trish Emig, president of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature Alumni Association, reports that one bill that will become law, Senate Bill 280 by Rep. Marcus McEntire and Sen. Frank Simpson, will provide much-needed reform to nursing homes in Oklahoma. Among other significant reforms, it enacts into law the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature’s proposal to increase the number of long-term care Ombudsmens. OSHL was one of a coalition of organizations that advocated for the passage of this key legislation, which includes increased direct care staffing, restrictions on what staff can be counted as “direct care” and four hours of dementia care training per year for all clinical staff in nursing homes. SB 280 also replaces the current inadequate quality incentive reimbursement program with measurable objectives, including reducing pressure sores, urinary tract infections, anti-psychotic medication use, and unintended weight loss.
Other aging-related bills were supported by the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature advocates, and many of those bills passed.
“There still remains significant work to do to modernize the aging landscape that older Oklahomans face. One hundred of us turn 60 every day in Oklahoma. State government has been in denial about the many services that are needed to support this growing population,” Emig said.