Lawmakers in Minnesota have a lot on their minds as they consider how to solve Minnesota’s budget. One of the largest areas of spending includes health and human services.
One question lawmakers need to weigh: Where do all the older residents go?
More on that in a minute.
Lawmakers who rally around the idea that health and human services is somehow the fat cow of state finance don’t really understand the reasons why that aspect of the budget is growing.
Much of the budget is growing because the number of senior citizens is growing.
It shouldn’t surprise many lawmakers — after all, it was called the “Baby Boom” generation. But the babies have grown up and grown old.
If lawmakers hack the health and human services budget without any new revenue increase, they stand to capsize an already sinking ship. Most nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have faced annual double-digit cuts to their reimbursement from the state. A study by LarsonAllen LLP estimates that 63 nursing homes in Minnesota with as many as 8,850 jobs are at risk if lawmakers slash the reimbursements.
That’s about 10 percent of all facilities in our area.
So, where do Grandpa and Grandma go?
The Daily News asked that question to several experts recently: If there is no room at the inn, what then?
The answer, while anecdotal, is telling: Our elderly citizens who can’t get care stay in their home too long, regrettably waiting until the next catastrophe.
But lest lawmakers harrumph and bluster about the state’s role of government in individual lives, leaving our older citizens to fend for themselves comes back and winds up costing the state and all taxpayers in the long run. So really there are no savings, just cost shifting.
Booting the elderly off state assistance — whether that’s kicking them off programs or forcing facilities to close the doors — will cause them to stay at home longer.
When the day comes that a stroke, heart attack or a fall happens, those same people who might have avoided a catastrophic medical event will be rushed to the emergency room and treated with the most expensive help available for very serious conditions.
In other words, Medicare, Medicaid, medical assistance and even private insurers will foot the larger-than-it-should-have-been bill.
In many respects, adequately funding health and human services even if that means tax increases would be a more pragmatic, not to mention humane, approach. As the old phrase goes: You can pay now, or pay later. The truth is that most of the time when it comes to taking care of our senior citizens — paying later almost always means paying more.
So, before the Legislature whips up another hurrah session of slogans that forwards the notion that they’ll not spend one more cent of taxpayer money, don’t let them off the hook: Not spending more tax money isn’t the same thing as not having to pay for things like elderly care.
By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and deputy editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call 453-3507 or send email to email@example.com.