Senior care should be a state funding priority

In Minnesota, the senior care industry is very much under the control of the state. The state determines how many beds a skilled care facility can have, and controls how much they can charge patients, even private pay patients. Over the years, the state has seemed to pay more attention to its bottom line than in the facilities’ ability to provide care for their residents.

Now, with a $17.6 billion state fund surplus in sight, it is time for the state to take care of its responsibility.

Long-term skilled care facilities are struggling to hire the staff they need to provide better care for more seniors. At Oak Hills Living Center in New Ulm, for instance, the administration recently reported that it has 12 empty beds and a waiting list of people who could fill them. The problem is staffing. It can’t hire enough people take care of the people who would fill those beds.

Minnesota is one of only two states in the union (North Dakota is the other) that requires nursing homes to charge their private pay residents no more than the Medicaid rates set by the state Department of Health and Human Services. The state, therefore, sets the rates for all who receive care, and they have not been keeping up with the cost of providing care.

Based on the revenue from Medicaid reimbursement rates, nursing homes can’t offer the competitive pay needed to attract skilled nursing care workers, and they can’t afford to pay those who are working the wages they deserve.

There are more than a million Minnesotans aged 65 and older. The Baby Boomers are babies no longer and will soon be in need of long-term care in unprecedented numbers.

It is time for Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota legislators to address this problem. After all, none of us are getting any younger.


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