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ESPECIALLY FOR SENIORS: Make your voice heard in Augusta

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Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 7:39 pm

It appears from the newspapers that the craft fair business is outdoing the yard sale business in Maine. What a great opportunity for those of us whose wallets are thin to visit a local church or hall and choose something handmade, unique and that doesn’t require batteries or some electronic box in order to be complete.

On the heels of Thanksgiving and Christmas comes another event here in Maine. Our representatives and senators will be headed back to Augusta in a few weeks to review, consider and act on more laws affecting the way we live.

Since last June, many seniors have been adversely affected by new laws that promised to take a bite out of the budget – but we didn’t think it would be ours. Make sure your representatives have a list of your concerns when they go.

We’ve read that at least one of our local representatives is going to chase down the elimination of one of the most popular Maine programs – the one we refer to as “circuit breaker,” which refunded a percentage of property taxes to many and for those who pay rent, a portion of their rent was returned. For years, I personally used the rent refund to get my first delivery of oil. When Social Security and a part-time job account for total income, coming up with more than $600 can be a challenge and I’ve heard from many readers who feel the same way. For residents who own their home, lots of people used the refund to pay their taxes. This caused a real hardship.

Last summer, legislators voted to accept federal money to extend Medicaid to thousands of uninsured Maine people, but the governor vetoed the bill. Hopefully, lawmakers will reconsider this. Groups like AARP will be keeping a close eye on this and other actions that will affect senior citizens. There are more than 16,000 uninsured in Maine, ages 50-64. Several other programs were dropped (Drugs for the Elderly was one), several of which directly impose a hardship to those with limited income.

“Maine missed a chance earlier this year to offer health insurance to many who currently lack coverage,” said John Hennessy, AARP associate state director for advocacy. AARP is urging lawmakers to reconsider the issue in the 2014 session. Under the proposal, federal money would cover 100 percent of newly enrolled Medicaid recipients through Dec. 31, 2016. The federal government would gradually lower its share of Medicaid costs to 90 percent by 2020.

Keep in touch with your local senators and representatives. Ask questions, write them a letter and ask what they are doing to help the seniors who elected them. Activities in Augusta are reported on the AARP website, but if you don’t have a computer at home, visit your local library where someone will help you log on to see what is going on in our state capital and what your future might be like. Here’s hoping the circuit-breaker program will be reinstated and that no one in Maine will be uninsured.

Next year, according to the AARP website, Maine will hold elections for governor, one U.S. Senate seat and both U.S. House seats – start now to find out how the candidates really feel about issues that concern seniors.

Kay Soldier welcomes reader ideas for column topics of interest to seniors. She can be reached by email at kso48@aol.com, or write to 114 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062.

Welcome to the discussion.