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Politics & Government

AARP outlines Legislative priorities




AARP North Dakota is outlining its priorities for the 2019 Legislative session.

One big issue is taxation of Social Security benefits. North Dakota is one of only 13 states that tax Social Security benefits. And the state is one of four states that tax it at the full level the federal government does.

"We think the state should take a look at repealing that Social Security tax," said AARP state director Josh Askvig.

Askvig said this could help folks who are receiving a modest amount of Social Security benefits.

"When you consider approximately one in six rely on Social Security for half or more of their retirement income, and the average benefit is about $1,300 a month, you can bet that cutting taxes on that benefit could be a big help to them," Askvig said.

Minnesota repealed its tax on Social Security benefits in 2017.

Askvig said anther initiative has to do with family caregivers.

"Many of them tell us they don't receive enough instruction from health care professionals about tasks they're completing for their loved ones when they get home," Askvig said.

Askvig said his organization will be pushing what has been dubbed the “CARE Act” in the upcoming Legislative session. He said a patient about to be discharged can tell the hospital who will be designated to provide at-home care.

"It make sure those family caregivers get the information and instruction from the hospital and the professionals about what it is they will be asked to do, once the loved one goes home," Askvig said.

The bill had been introduced in the 2017 session, but it failed.

Askvig said AARP will also be pushing for more money for professional at-home care services, allowing more people to stay home, rather than go into assisted living or nursing homes.

Health care in general remains one of the organization's major concerns. Askvig said one of the lynchpins of that is Medicaid expansion.

"When North Dakota expanded Medicaid in 2013, an additional 20,000 North Dakotans with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level now have health insurance," Askvig said. "When 33% of those are between the ages of 45 and 64, it's an important piece to make sure people have access to good quality health care."

Askvig said he's encouraged that Gov. Doug Burgum is keeping Medicaid expansion as part of his executive budget request.