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Larry Galizio stands up for seniors rights

The Legislature's District 35 representative discusses recent bills that aid seniors
by: Barbara Sherman, LARRY GALIZIO, while making a stop in King City on March 16, chats with residents Georgia and Syd Pollard, who have lived in King City for three years and told him they actively follow national politics.

A couple of bills passed in the February special legislative session were designed specifically to help seniors, and Larry Galizio, D-Tigard, who represents both Summerfield and King City, recently explained what they mean to area seniors.

Senate Bill 1061 requires the state Department of Human Services to establish Medicaid reimbursement rates at levels sufficient for facilities to maintain existing capacities for serving seniors and people with physical disabilities through the biennium, which ends June 30, 2009.

'It's known as the long-term care bill and requires the Department of Human Services to work on a comprehensive plan for long-term senior care,' Galizio said. 'It will provide a big picture look through stakeholders' meetings. Care providers and others involved in long-term care will endeavor to see if we can provide incentives for facilities to accept Medicaid patients.

'The group has already started meeting and will report back to the Oregon Legislature next year. They will probably come up with some policy options.'

Galizio praised Bruce Goldberg, who is the head of the Department of Human Services, as 'smart and dedicated.'

He added that the state is trying 'to take a big picture look at this massive agency that uses big resources.'

Because SB 1061 declared an emergency, it became effective on passage.

The other good news for seniors coming out of the session was a $12.2 million budget allocation earmarked specifically to supplement Medicaid rates.

'It improves access to adult foster care,' Galizio said. 'There is a growing disparity between Medicaid reimbursement rates and private insurance. In the 2007 session, we decided to pass a significant double-digit financial commitment, but now more money was needed.'

According to Galizio, Oregon has the lowest institutionalization rates of senior citizens of all the 50 states, 'but it's still a challenging demographic.'

He added, 'In the 2007 session, we increased funding 17 percent for seniors and people with disabilities, and the $12.2 million is on top of that. Also, in '07 we expanded the prescription drug plan.'

According to Galizio, other bills passed in the recent session indirectly benefit seniors as well.

'We passed two mortgage-related bills,' he said. 'One deals with people who call themselves 'foreclosure consultants.' Some are legitimate, but some are corrupt. They say they will help you and scam you by taking the title to your house. We had no regulation on that.

'We also passed a bill on loan originators. One of the difficulties with mortgages is that some banks are federally chartered. In Oregon we only have control over state-chartered banks, not the federally chartered ones.'

Galizio also is pleased that the Legislature, after approving funds to hire 100 more Oregon State Police troopers in the 2007 session, agreed in February to fund an additional 35 'to give us 24/7 coverage.'

He added, 'So much has happened since the February session. We were there only three weeks.'

Galizio champions the concept of Oregon switching to annual legislative sessions instead of biannual ones, and he thinks the 2009 Legislature will probably refer that constitutional change to the voters.