AARP Virginia 2021 agenda: Retirement security, drug prices, nursing home reform
AARP Virginia will ask Virginia lawmakers for legislation to help workers save for retirement, require prescription drug price transparency, and overhaul oversight of the state’s long-term care facilities.
“The last year has exposed so many underlying crises and challenges faced by Virginians from all backgrounds,” said AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau. “AARP Virginia’s volunteer advocates will make themselves heard, telling the General Assembly that they must act with urgency to improve the financial and health security of the people they serve.”
AARP Virginia urges legislators to implement a voluntary retirement savings plan available to Virginia employers and employees in accordance with recommendations from a study conducted in 2020 by Virginia College Savings Plan (VA529).
Prescription drug price transparency is also a top priority for AARP Virginia during the 2021 General Assembly session. In 2017, 23 percent of Virginians stopped taking medications as prescribed due to cost. Between 2012 and 2017 the average increase in the annual cost of prescription drugs rose by 57.8 percent, while the average income in Virginia increased by only 8.5 percent.
AARP Virginia will continue working to bring transparency to the pricing practices of prescription drug manufacturers by supporting legislation imposing reporting requirements that will provide notification and justification for price increases over certain thresholds. AARP Virginia also urges the General Assembly to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with the authority to set upper payment limits on certain high-cost prescription drugs.
“Too many Virginians can’t afford to take medications they need, and almost everybody has a story about a prescription that shot up in price without being told why,” Dau said. “It’s time to bring transparency to the system to give Virginians explanations for price increases that, so far, have been inexplicable or unexplained.”
AARP Virginia also urges the General Assembly to enact common-sense policies immediately that ensure quality care for nursing home residents through improved staff-to-resident ratios and standards of care. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people who live and work in nursing homes across the country.
In Virginia, more than 2,000 residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died due to the pandemic.
“The fact that nursing home residents account for just a little over 3 percent of total COVID-19 cases, but more than 30 percent of virus deaths in Virginia, is a glaring example that action must be taken to protect the vulnerable,” Dau said. “This is a tragic crisis – years in the making – that needs to be fixed now.”
And actually, it’s worse than that. According to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 data dashboard, outbreaks in long-term care facilities have accounted for 2,578 of the 5,552 reported COVID deaths – 46.4 percent of the state’s overall death toll.
With nearly 1 million members in Virginia, AARP is the largest organization working on behalf of people age 50+ and their families in the Commonwealth. In recent years, AARP Virginia has successfully fought for Medicaid expansion, protections for older people against financial exploitation, and empowering family caregivers.