Local Legislative candidates visit the NYM Elders' Home
All four area Legislative candidates made a stop in New York Mills on Tuesday to visit with residents at the Elders' Home. Democratic challengers Dan Skogen and Tim Nieminen, as well as Republican incumbents Dean Simpson and Cal Larson, talked wi...
All four area Legislative candidates made a stop in New York Mills on Tuesday to visit with residents at the Elders' Home.
Democratic challengers Dan Skogen and Tim Nieminen, as well as Republican incumbents Dean Simpson and Cal Larson, talked with residents and administrator Cal Anderson about issues facing the state this election year.
Skogen and Nieminen met with the group first for an hour, followed by Larson and Simpson the second hour.
Anderson made it clear to all the candidates the current financial situation for long-term care facilities such as the Elders' Home is not good. The bottom line: nursing homes need more money from the state to operate.
Anderson stated to both sides nursing homes are losing money and funding from the state the last couple years doesn't keep up with inflation. He told the candidates one out of four homes, including the Elders' Home, is facing serious financial difficulty.
A recently released national study shows the cost of caring for a resident of a nursing home in Minnesota averages about $20 more than the amount received from Medicaid, which pays for the majority of nursing home care in the state.
All the candidates agree this bleak financial situation needs to be addressed, and although none gave specific ideas as to where to get the money, all agreed the projected half a billion dollar budget surplus is a good place to start.
With a surplus in sight everybody wants a piece of the pie, and it often comes down to metro versus rural. Anderson doesn't want the Elders' Home and other rural facilities to be left out in the cold. Simpson and Larson told the group one problem facing rural legislators is the widening gap between rural and metro representation.
"Our job as rural legislators is to get our fair share of allocated resources," Larson said. "With this surplus, hopefully we can make up ground in some of the things lost."
Last year the state increased funding for nursing homes about 2 percent, this year the increase was about the same. The previous years, partially due to a budget shortfall, there were no increases. That's where Anderson says the state is not keeping up with inflation.
Skogen, who is running against Larson, stated one way to deal with the rising costs of health care is to educate people on preparing for the future with long-term care insurance for those who can afford it. He said that, along with getting more money from the state, is a good way to help keep non-profit facilities like the Elders' Home around in the future. Skogen said some sort of long-range government funding is needed and the state needs to encourage people to go out and buy extended health care insurance.
Simpson later made the same point and said there needs to be tax incentives to encourage people to buy extended health care insurance. He added people really need to look at preparing themselves financially early on for long-term care in their later years of life.
Nieminen is new to the political game and is running against Simpson for the District 10B House seat.
"Even before I got into politics I could see that we're going to have a problem with the Baby Boomers retiring," he said. "We have to make sure nursing homes in the state remain open.
According to Anderson, in the next 25 years the population of residents over the age of 65 will double, and older people will make up over 20 percent of the state's population.
Simpson, who has lived nearly his whole life in NY Mills and recently moved to Big Pine Lake, is a familiar face to the Elders' Home residents. He was mayor in Mills for 25 years and owns Dean's Country Market.
"I think I know what's happening in this area," he said during his introduction. "I've been filling grocery bags for you folks a long time."
Simpson told residents and staff some of the big issues and top priorities in the district are affordable health care, k-12 education and finding jobs for young people to keep them in the area.
Tuesday's meeting was not a debate, but rather a way for Anderson to get his point across to the candidates that the nursing home situation in Minnesota will not get any better without increased funding from the state.
(The Herald will take a closer look at the individual candidates and have more on the Elders' Home visit in next week's edition.)