Friday, February 21, 2014

Democrats to focus on protecting seniors

Crisco prioritizes quality of life  

HARTFORD - Enhancing the quality of life for Connecticut’s seniors through a variety of programmatic and consumer protection proposals will be a top priority for Democrats during the 2014 legislative session, according to state Sen. Joseph J. Crisco Jr., D-Woodbridge.

Crisco recently joined Democratic leaders in the state House and Senate to announce an agenda for seniors that includes a new jobs re-employment program, an Aging in Place initiative, additional protections from door-to-door solicitors, and disclosure requirements for alternative electricity suppliers.

“When we sat down to discuss our agendas for the 2014 session, I made it clear that the quality of life of seniors in my district was a top priority for me,” Crisco said.
 “I’m thrilled that so many of my colleagues agreed, and that we’ll be advocating for such a robust set of programs and consumer protection initiatives. My aim this session is to protect seniors, but most importantly to empower them so they can lead fulfilling lives.”

Reemployment of Older Workers
With older workers more likely to be unemployed longer than younger individuals, barriers such as skill set deficiencies, lack of job search skills, or a negative perception about older workers often must be overcome.
Based on recommendations of the Program Review Committee, Democrats’ proposals would:
Require the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission to coordinate a web-based hiring campaign for older workers.
Prohibit employers from publishing, in print or on the internet, a job vacancy that:
lists current employment as a required qualification;
states unemployed candidates will not be considered.
Enhance and improve existing on-the-job training opportunities.
Coordinate existing job search, education and job training resources into a centralized database that is easily accessible.

Aging In Place
Develop more livable communities for seniors through:
A grant program to promote home and service-based support systems, such as transportation, meals, and maintenance to allow individuals to stay in their homes longer.
Incentives for transit oriented development projects targeting senior populations, which may include accessory or in-law apartments, home modifications and home share.

Being able to continue to live at home can often require certain changes to a house or apartment, so Democrats plan to:
Provide funding for individuals to retrofit and update their homes to accommodate their change in lifestyle.
Based on the Aging in Place Task Force, the Democrats’ plan would also:
Offer opportunities for municipalities to be recognized as “Aging in Place Ready Communities” by meeting certain requirements.

Consumer & Privacy Protections
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses and high pressure or misleading sales tactics. These common sense proposals provide transparency, protection and accountability.

Electric Suppliers
With electric market competition has come an increase in high pressure sales tactics, misleading information and a lack of overall transparency about rate comparisons and increases, and renewal policies and processes.
These proposals will arm all consumers with the valuable information they need to make the best choices.
Require additional, prominently printed, information on electric bills, including notification of rate increases, date of auto-renewal, and any cancellation fees.
Print standard offer rate on every bill next to the applicable private supplier rate.
Require online bills to conspicuously display the same information as required on printed bills.
Direct PURA to establish an online marketplace where customers can easily compare all private electric supplier offers and purchase directly through the marketplace.
Door-to-Door Solicitation by Utilities—Seniors are especially vulnerable when it comes to the often high-pressure tactics of door-to-door salespeople who often target areas with high senior populations. Democrats’ proposals would:
Require all offers made by door-to-door salespeople be in writing,
Require that the written offer prominently display a phone number to speak with a customer service representative.
Give the consumer the right to cancel the contract within 30 days of activation for any reason, without penalty, and prominently notify the consumer of this right on the written offer.

Do Not Call List
Unwanted, unsolicited phone intrusions are on the rise and seniors are often the targets of phone scams. There is currently little incentive for businesses to comply with the law. Democrats’ proposals tighten up loopholes in the current law and increase penalties for violators.
Raise the stakes of non-compliance by markedly increasing penalties.
Increase consumers’ awareness of how and where to make complaints of violations by displaying complaint procedures on phone bills.
Include text messaging in the current Do Not Call law.

Prescription Drug Discounts and Privacy of Medical Records
Several large pharmacies now offer prescription drug discount programs, which can be attractive to seniors facing high prescription drug costs.

Most consumers don’t realize that when they sign up for these programs they are often unknowingly signing away their privacy rights to their entire medical record, allowing the pharmacy access to a customer’s health history and the right to sell a customer’s personal health information for marketing and other purposes.

This proposal would ensure that if a customer chooses to participate in these discount programs, that they understand what they are signing away when they do so.

Require pharmacies to clearly define in layman’s terms the privacy rights a consumer is giving away by enrolling in the program on webpages and other promotional materials.

Require larger font and greater prominence of these terms on pharmacy websites and other promotional materials as well as an explicit sign-off by the consumer in the form of a check off box specific to privacy rights prior to final enrollment in the program.

This is a press release from Crisco's office.  

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