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April 5, 2010
AARP is working to raise awareness of the urgent need for reform of our long-term care system.
The population age 85 and older – the age most likely to need long-term care services – is growing at a dramatic rate. The long-term care system is a complicated, expensive system that often defies common sense.
"While the state budget deficit is grim, we can and must take the opportunity to push for reform here at the State Capitol that will help us better prepare for future needs," said State Director Michele Kimball.
AARP has reform ideas that will help move our state ahead and better prepare consumers. First, AARP is emphasizing the importance home and community based services in the budget, and urging lawmakers to reject the proposals in the Governor's budget that reverse the good work our state has done to provide cost-effective alternatives to nursing homes.
For example, the proposed cuts in eligibility for long-term care waiver programs, which help very vulnerable Minnesotans receive basic care in the community – and prolong the need for expensive nursing homes. These waivers result in cost savings to both the state and taxpayers in the long-run. On average, Medicaid dollars can support nearly three older people and adults with physical disabilities in home and community-based settings for every person in a nursing facility.
AARP is also working to better recognize our informal caregiving system. Unpaid family caregivers provide the vast majority of care to Minnesotans. Given the current budget and economic challenges, families will be asked to do even more.
"We need to protect this fragile system from cracking," said Kimball.
AARP is pushing for the adoption of proposals before the Legislature to provide a tax credit for low income caregivers; and to allow employees to use earned sick time to care for loved ones.
All Minnesotans need to plan now for their own long-term care needs – and AARP is urging the Legislature to adopt a state-sponsored long-term care savings plan that would create easier ways for people to plan and save for the high costs of long-term care.
Better connecting people to nonbiased information about their long-term care options before they face a crisis is also key, says Kimball. The Senior LinkAge line and Minnesotahelp.info can help people navigate through the long-term care maze, yet too few people know about these services.
Finally, AARP believes that technology can allow care workers to more efficiently coordinate services and can offer new care options that help keep people in their homes. AARP is advocating for state policies that encourage the use of technology.
"Achieving real reform of our long-term care system requires us to shine the light on a system that affects so many people, yet rarely makes the headlines. It’s not always fun to talk about how we want to live out our days when we’ll need the care of others, but let’s put it on the table and have a real discussion," said Kimball.
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