2009 Health Wins in States
While working to achieve nationwide health reforms, AARP’s tenacious members won significant
health care improvements in a number of states. These gains were achieved despite tight state
budgets—sometimes because savings from the reforms will help free up dollars for other worthy
programs. Here are just a few of these impressive gains.
Coverage for All
AARP actively participated in coalitions that brought
about landmark health reforms in two states.
Connecticut’s new SustiNet program promises to
cover more than 98 percent of state residents by 2014.
Every West Virginian will receive affordable, high-quality health care under a new five-year plan that
could reduce the state’s overall health spending by
$2.7 billion over the next 10 years, according to one
national health policy expert.
Wisconsin expanded its BadgerCare Plus program to
cover low-income adults without dependent children.
AARP testified and placed ads in support of this
change, which brought to 98 percent the portion of
state residents with access to health care.
Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi raised cigarette
taxes to pay for health care improvements.
AARP’s creative approach to prescription drug
coverage in Connecticut yielded a win for consumers
and for the state’s bottom line. Thousand of seniors
who needed help paying for medications faced being
thrown out of the state’s prescription drug assistance
program (ConnPACE) due to statewide budget deficits.
AARP proposed that those enrollees qualify for the
Medicare Savings Program (which is supported by
federal funds) by expanding its eligibility standards.
The result? The state will save $4 million a year, more
than 20,000 ConnPACE enrollees will enjoy better Rx
benefits and 18,000 new people can join the Medicare
Tennessee no longer ranks last in helping low-income
seniors and adults with disabilities receive care in their
own homes. Thanks to AARP’s persistency, TennCare
(the state’s Medicaid program) decided to stop pouring
99 percent of its long-term care dollars into nursing
homes. Starting in March 2010, home-care options will
become available – providing comfort to people who
need help, and saving taxpayers’ money. Home care
costs about $14,000 per year for two hours of daily
at-home services, compared with $66,000 for a nursing
At the AARP New Jersey state office, New Jersey
Governor Jon Corzine signs the Health Error
Accountability Law (HEAL), which requires hospitals’
disclosure of 14 life-threatening medical errors.
Brain-surgery victim Eduardo Rivero, Jr. places a
souvenir “signing pen” in his pocket as AARP Board
Vice-Chair Phil Zarlengo of Rhode Island (center)
Quality was the focus in three states. A new
Missouri law improved the nursing-home transition
program, required smoke alarms, sprinklers and staff
background checks in nursing homes and established
a new dispute-resolution process for nursing
home residents. Hawaii put in place licensing and
background checks for home care professionals. Iowa
sought to enhance nursing-home care through a new
Curbing Medical Horrors
Thanks to AARP’s strong advocacy, state legislators
passed a new law designed to protect patients by
requiring public disclosure of hospital safety rates
for 14 life-threatening medical errors. One victim of
such a medical error was Eduardo Rivero, Jr., who was
enjoying an active retirement as a Spanish teacher and
volunteer in Cherry Hill when his sense of balance
declined dramatically. During emergency brain
surgery, an assisting surgeon cut into the wrong side
of his skull. Fortunately, the primary surgeon caught
the mistake before he began to drill—but it took 63
staples to close the wound.