No clear strategy to fund ballooning need for senior care
By 2030, 1 in 5 Minnesotans will be 65 years old or older. Those numbers will pressure on the state’s long-term care systems in ways never seen before. “[Even] if services weren’t getting more expensive, just the sheer number of people that will be accessing services increases the investment significantly,” said Rajean Moone, executive director of the Minnesota Leadership Council on Aging. “And many of these are entitlement programs, so the increase is not capped. If you qualify for Medical Assistance, you’ll get Medical Assistance and we’ll pay for the services that you need.” Medical Assistance — the state’s Medicaid program — pays for a lot of seniors’ long-term care services like nursing homes, assisted living or home care services, among other things. When someone paying for long term care has nearly exhausted their savings, they qualify for Medical Assistance, which then pays for the care. The state now spends about $1 billion a year on long-term care services and support. The cost to taxpayers will balloon under the current system, as this demographic group ages, said Moone. “We’re talking about a significant increase in Medical Assistance expenditures on services for older Minnesotans,” he said. How Minnesota addresses those rising costs — either through increased funding or cost-cutting — while also funding other priorities like education and infrastructure, is far from settled. “We need to talk about it now because this is such a huge challenge,” said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley. Eken has proposed a long-shot idea — a constitutional amendment that would dedicate funding to long-term care in the state. Eken’s goal is to ensure senior care doesn’t compete with general fund dollars from other priorities such as infrastructure or education.