The South Carolina House Chambers are filled once again with men and women discussing important issues. But this time, they’re not state lawmakers.
The Eleventh Annual Session of South Carolina’s Silver Haired Legislature has begun this week at the Statehouse. Every year, senior citizens get together to work on recommendations which they will present to the actual legislators in a few months.
The Silver Haired Legislature is divided into six committees which prioritize five issues.
Lt. Governor André Bauer, who is in charge of the state’s Office on Aging, delivered a keynote address Tuesday, discussing how $500 billion will be diverted from Medicare to finance health care reform. Medicare serves 660,000 South Carolinians and purchases $4.3 billion in health care annually.
Bauer told the seniors that only ten-percent of Medicare recipients account for two-thirds of the agency’s expenditures, and he says something needs to change.
Bauer says there needs to be a Medicare system that rewards good behavior. Bauer says he has developed a Medicare recipients’ bill of rights, which emphasizes that Medicare should not be cut in connection with the current attempt at health care reform. The document also asserts that the government should not get involved in decisions between physicians and their patients, and prohibit health care rationing based on age. Bauer says Medicare recipients also have a right to keep their current coverage. He also says that health care to veterans and their families should not be cut.
Bauer says the average annual per-capita Medicare expenditure for that upper ten percent is $44,000, which Bauer says is his entire annual salary. He says the bottom 90-percent of Medicare recipients cost the government less than $3,000 each year. Bauer says some people need to change some habits that affect their health. He says medical scientists have proven than by changing a few habits, Americans would experience an 80-percent reduction in their risk of disease.
“You’ve heard me talk before about my grandmother who used to cook eggs using bacon grease. In the latter part of her life, I taught her to use Pam spray instead. But sadly I lost her to poor eating habits. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 82, just a baby. Had I gotten to her earlier, she would have had an extended life.”
Bauer says the drain on Medicare begins with young people. “Have ya’ll seen the young people lately? A bunch of them are fat. But nobody wants to talk about it. The kids sit at home all day and play computer games. They don’t do what we did. We got outside and played. We would find a stick and a pine cone and play ball. We got active. We burned it off. Now they eat more processed, sugar-laden food, so they’re getting fatter and fatter. And juvenile diabetes is up higher than it has ever been before.”
Bauer says he was once a lot heavier, when he was in the 6th grade, but he says he changed a few habits and lost weight.
And the Republican added that socialistic government doesn’t work.
“Socialism is great. Until you run out of other peoples’ money. If we don’t speak up, there’s a whole generation who will speak up for us. And because of modern television and other influences, they have this different viewpoint of life, and of what government is supposed to do. In a fairytale world, it’s great. But in reality it doesn’t work. You can’t borrow your way out of debt. In reality you have to pay up.”
Lamar Bailes of Walhalla serves a Speaker of South Carolina’s Silver Haired Legislature.
So far this week the body voted to wait a year before proposing legislation that limits car title lenders. Members of the group want to wait until the regular legislature adds details to their proposal next year.
But they voted to develop a proposal that would develop a media alert system similar to the Amber Alert System. But instead of alerting radio and television stations when a child has been taken, it would apply to adults with dementia, like Alzheimer’s Disease, who wander away or drive away and forget where they are.
Long-time Silver Hair member Gloria Bonali of Conway made the proposal, saying it was already used in Texas and some other states.
Bonali said that if missing adults with Alzheimer’s aren’t found within 24 hours, there’s a 50-percent chance that something very bad will happen to them.
But the proposal wasn’t without opposition. John Deets of Daniel Island said an official from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division asserts that it would be a pointless system, since most Alzheimer’s patients walk away and are found within a half mile of their home. Deets says all that’s necessary is that law enforcement be notified in such cases, and that happens anyway.
But Bonali asserted that in many cases, the missing person has access to a car or even a bus, and may end up anywhere.
South Carolina is one of 31 states that have created a body of senior citizens to make legislative proposals. South Carolina’s Silver Haired Legislators serve without pay and are chosen in each county in coordination with the state’s 10 Regional Area Agencies on Aging.
The General Assembly created the group in 1999.
Previous recommendations have been instrumental in helping create South Carolina’s Geriatric Loan Forgiveness program. They also helped to develop laws that mandate criminal background checks of service workers, and enhance the state’s ombudsman program for long-term care.