Mizeur to propose state-run retirement savings, other steps for Md. senior citizens

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather R. Mizeur on Wednesday will propose establishing a state-run retirement savings plan as part of a package of initiatives geared toward improving the lives of senior citizens.

Mizeur, a state delegate from Montgomery County, also plans to call for the creation of a registry of people found to have abused seniors in long-term care facilities with the aim of preventing them from continuing to work in the industry.

She will also voice a commitment to make Maryland “an epicenter for Alzheimer’s research” and to empower seniors to make more of their own medical decisions — including an ability to “choose their own terms of dying.”

“If terminally ill, mentally competent adults choose to end their life, they should be able to seek a life-ending dose of medicine from their physician,” Mizeur says in the plan, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post. “Patients, must proactively fill the prescriptions and self-administer the medicine.”

The plan is the latest put forward by Democrats competing to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Mizeur faces Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) in the June Democratic primary.

“Our seniors have dedicated their lives to building stronger communities all across Maryland,” Mizeur says in the introduction to her plan. “As they live longer and healthier than ever before, it is our responsibility to help make their retirement years truly golden.”

According to Mizeur, only about half of Marylanders participate in an employer-sponsored savings program.

She will propose the creation of the Maryland Retirement Partnership Fund for those without an employer-sponsored option. As envisioned, employees would contribute at least 3 percent of their salary. With a large pool of participants, the fund would have lower fees than existing alternatives, Mizeur says. It would be governed by the state treasurer.

The plan also calls for the creation of the “Maryland Adult Abuser Registry,” which would be maintained by the state health department.

“Those who are convicted for elder abuse and those who are found by a state agency to have abused or neglected a vulnerable adult will be listed in the registry and prevented from future work in the care industry,” Mizeur’s plan says.

In 2012, there were more than 3,600 reports of abuse and neglect against seniors in Maryland, according to state analysts. Most cases are never reported, however.

Mizeur also calls for stepping up the work of a council established in 2011 that was tasked with developing a plan to combat Alzheimer’s disease in Maryland. With some of the best research universities in the nation and some leading private-sector companies, Mizeur says Maryland should make Alzheimer’s research a priority.

Her plan also calls for creating a geriatric mental health specialist program in each county of Maryland.

Mizeur also pledges to do more to educate and empower seniors to make medical decisions and hold medical providers accountable who disregard their legal wishes.

She says she will follow the lead of states including Oregon, Washington and Vermont that allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to choose their own terms of dying.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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