Lowell and Betty (my husband’s parents) worked hard, saved and raised four children. Lowell worked as an engineer and Betty as a nurse, and they attained a middle-class lifestyle and small home in southwest Minneapolis. They lived frugally — family members remember how Betty would reuse wrapping paper from one Christmas to the next. They “did everything right” by saving for retirement, investing, buying insurance and establishing a trust to protect their assets.
After about 10 years of happy retirement — traveling, visiting relatives, writing, attending church and celebrating their Norwegian heritage — Betty had a stroke that left her severely disabled. She needed two caregivers to move her and required round-the-clock care in a nursing home. The majority of Betty’s and Lowell’s life savings was drained, so nursing home payments would be covered by Medicaid. Many people do not know that long-term nursing home care is not covered by Medicare.
After several years in the nursing home, Betty passed away, leaving Lowell heartbroken but still living independently. Unfortunately, it was not long before a broken hip and other effects of aging led doctors to insist that Lowell have round-the-clock care. The assets that Lowell was allowed to keep from the previous Medicaid application were rapidly drained, and Medicaid provided coverage as he lived out his years in a memory care facility.
Even Americans who work hard, save, and have caring and supportive families are just one medical catastrophe from needing Medicaid.
Sue Schroeder, Minneapolis
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We have now seen the U.S. Senate’s “health care” bill, and it is as bad for patients as the House’s previously passed version. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that over the next 10 years, 22 million more Americans will be uninsured, most of them being those who need insurance most: the poor, the sick, those with disabilities, the elderly in nursing homes and young kids — the groups who depend most on Medicaid. To put 22 million in perspective, it’s about three times the population of New York City or, put differently, if the newly uninsured were put in a state, that state would be the third largest in the U.S.
As a medical and public health student at the University of Minnesota studying in a program focused on caring for the underserved, I see firsthand each day what was reported this week in the New England Journal of Medicine as well as the Annals of Internal Medicine — that health insurance can be the difference between life and death. Denying this many people insurance to score political points and give a tax break to the richest of the rich is unconscionable. I thank Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken for fighting for patients. It was reported Tuesday that the Senate vote will be delayed until July, but if this terrible bill ultimately passes the Senate and reconciliation, and is therefore revisited in the House, I hope Reps. Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer can put people before politics. If they don’t, patients, practitioners and the populace won’t let them forget those who died from their decisions.
Mike Rose, St. Paul
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
‘Training wage’ provision would be damaging to students like me
I was quite upset when I read that the Minneapolis City Council plans to undermine the $15 minimum wage with a so-called 90-day “training wage” for workers under 21, because it would have a devastating impact on college students like me. I have to work full time every summer to pay tuition. If the training wage is approved, I could work every summer for four years without ever making $15 an hour, which would make it much harder to stay in school.
I also worry that employers may replace older workers with younger workers to take advantage of the subminimum training wage. An unscrupulous business owner might lay off a young worker at the end of 90 days and bring in another trainee to keep down labor costs. That would destabilize the labor market, hurting both young workers like me and adults who need long-term employment. One fair wage of $15 an hour for all workers, regardless of age, is obviously more sensible and equitable.
Michelle Hedges, Minneapolis
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The $15 wage might hurt small entrepreneurs, but on the other hand it would help keep the labor force more stable with less turnover, thus saving employers money by reducing retraining costs. This would lead to a more mature and complacent workforce. Employers should not have the responsibility of training young entrants to the working world.
Tom Obst, Forest Lake
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A recent University of Washington study concludes that Seattle’s new (2014) $15 minimum wage has resulted in 5,000 fewer jobs and reduced take-home pay for low-wage workers. While the law boosted pay by 3 percent, it resulted in a 9 percent reduction in hours and a $125 reduction in monthly pay.
Minneapolis’ left-of-center policymakers would be well-advised to consult with their liberal counterparts in Seattle and listen to small-business owners in the city. Then again, if $15 an hour doesn’t work, maybe they’ll push for $25 an hour.
Michael Bates, Ham Lake
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Regarding the “livable wage” discussion: If a business cannot afford to pay a livable wage to its employees and still make a reasonable profit, it simply is not a viable business!
Jim Corolewski, Ramsey
Let writer live in a tiny house; we’ll take our (modest) space
Stephen Mihm (“Americans living as large as ever,” June 27) thinks we have a problem in America. While he acknowledges that house size in this country hasn’t grown appreciably since 1890, he’s concerned that the average number of people living in those houses has fallen. Is that the problem Mihm thinks it is, or does it simply mean that the average American family, whose size has fallen to 2.5 people, has significantly reduced one aspect of its impact on the planet and been rewarded with a little more elbow room?
Before we accept Mihm’s denser-is-better thesis at face value, consider this: My wife and I live in a relatively modest 1,600-square-foot house. Now that it’s just the two of us, the place feels wonderfully capacious, but when our two kids were teenagers, it certainly didn’t seem too large.
Shortly after we moved in years ago, we received a visit from the son of the original owner. During the course of our conversation, we heard fascinating stories of his life there with his parents and three siblings. And that was before a dormer expansion done by the second owner added 100 square feet. That’s two adults and four children in a 1,500-square-foot house. I’m sure Mihm would be pleased, but I doubt that most Americans long to return to the days when that was not uncommon.
Dan Beck, Minneapolis