Legislators discuss senior issues

Health care costs and services and property tax relief topped a list of issues area legislators and candidates discussed Wednesday during a Lawrence forum for their older constituents.

“In my mind, our nation has to have a fundamental shift. We need a paradigm shift in health care,” said state Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin. “We need to have some sort of a national health care coverage for all citizens of the United States.”

After gaining applause from dozens in attendance, Holland said such a health care plan would only need to be basic and not a “Cadillac.” He also encouraged increasing incentives for healthy lifestyles.

For about two hours, seven incumbent legislators and two challengers answered questions centered around the baby boomer generation heading into retirement age and the state’s role. The Interagency Network for Aging organized the forum at the Lawrence Public Library.

“Hopefully, some of the work we did this last year and some of the things we are looking at in the short term will do a better job than what we have been doing” to address aging issues, said Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said if re-elected she planned to work on property tax relief for senior citizens, elderly abuse prevention and programs that target obesity to help prevent other health problems.

Her opponent in November, Rick Davis, a Lawrence Republican and Kansas University senior, said he would support freezing home valuation increases for people 65 and older and would pursue placing a cap on property taxes for them.

Others said they would attempt to address how increased property taxes affect senior citizens on fixed incomes.

“The thought that someone could be taxed out of their home is an absolutely abhorrent thing,” said Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

He said he planned to introduce legislation to expand access to the Homestead Property Tax Refund Act, which offers refunds to certain people who qualify.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said the state also needs to look at how to link residents to effective health care, particularly in rural areas. He cited telemonitoring, in which health professionals can monitor a patient’s health through a machine in the home.

Sloan and Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, also mentioned the need to expand job training for those in health-related fields.

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, and Sloan’s opponent, Reform Party candidate Jason Littlejohn, of Lawrence, also participated in the forum.