Bills Pending In AZ Legislature Would Affect Seniors’ Care

FEBRUARY 8, 1999 VOLUME 6, NUMBER 32

In the first four months of each year, the Arizona legislature meets to consider possible changes in Arizona law. Usually a handful of the legislature’s ideas impact seniors and their support network. New laws introduced so far this year would bring mostly small, but good, changes. A few of the more important ideas under consideration:

HB (House Bill) 2088, HB 2531, SB (Senate Bill) 1099, and SB 1100: taken together, these bills express the Arizona legislature’s interest in long term care insurance as a means of reducing the governmental share of nursing home costs over time. The bills, if all pass, would establish a state income tax deduction for long term care insurance premiums, direct the State Department of Administration to conduct a study on the feasibility of offering long term care insurance to state employees, and create other administrative and tax incentives to expand the use of long term care insurance. Although the proposed tax credit is modest, the legislation is certainly a step in the right direction for families concerned about providing for care in the future.

SB 1146: current Arizona law establishes two separate mechanisms for taking control of the personal affairs of an incapacitated adult. For most people, the probate code (familiarly referred to as Title 14) provides the mechanism for legal assistance in such circumstances. For those who also suffer from mental illness, however, an entirely separate guardianship section in Title 36 of the statutes (the Public Health section) controls. The resulting confusion can make proceedings complicated and expensive, can delay treatment and can even result in inconsistent decisions.

The proposal filed as SB 1146 would combine those two legal systems into a single, more efficient system, while still protecting the civil rights of those brought under the protection of the law. It would also make it clear that a competent patient can give a health care power of attorney to a trusted adviser, which could be used to admit the patient for psychiatric care later, when the patient is no longer able to sign a consent himself or herself.

HB 2167: the “Aid in Dying” bill would permit physicians to issue a prescription to a terminally ill patient, even though the patient could use the medication to end his or her life. This bill, patterned after (but not exactly like) the Oregon “Death With Dignity” law, is given little prospect of passing, at least in this legislative session.

HB2063: under current law, a court can grant visitation rights to grandparents only if the parents are divorced, one parent is missing or the child was born out of wedlock. If adopted, this bill would remove those restrictions; the court could then order parents to permit visitation by grandparents any time the judge decided such visitation was in the child’s best interest.

SB 1251: the AHCCCS “Omnibus” bill would make a number of changes in the way Arizona’s Medicaid agency interprets trusts and annuities. Some of those changes appear to violate federal requirements, but other changes will be beneficial to trust recipients.

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