Every day another Minnesota family learns that a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic illness or physical disability that requires long-term care.  While the wealthiest households can pay for this care privately without spending into poverty, most middle-class Minnesotans experience substantial strain on their finances and overall lives as they try to cobble together caregiving help via family or friends. 

Many people do an exhausting balance trying to do their full-time job and provide care to a loved one, or they leave the workforce altogether, losing income and retirement savings.  This “caregiver penalty” is especially hard on women trying to save for retirement.

Often families hit their breaking point before turning to professional care services.  While such services provide essential help, they cost money.  Purchasing that long-term care can (think of the person who lives with Alzheimer’s for 5, 10, 15 or 20 or more years) quickly deplete one’s finances if they’re not prepared.  And most of us aren’t.  Why?  We don’t have the right financial tools.  This is care that is not covered by Medicare or the health insurance sold on the MNSure Health Exchange.  These are out-of-pocket-care-costs.

Some say this is a national issue.  Unfortunately, it has been studied, talked about, looked at, debated and moved nowhere on Capitol Hill for years.  The most recent effort was The Commission on Long-Term Care, whose members were appointed by Congress and The President.  Commission members took testimony, talked about the problem, but again, no solution. Based on current events, and decades of inertia on this issue, do you think that Washington, D.C., will come together on this to create the solution?

The Costs of Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

We can’t wait.  Take Alzheimer’s and related dementias alone:

As more and more Minnesotans live with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, the costs and challenges can be overwhelming for them, their families, our communities and our state. Some interesting facts from Alzheimer’s Association and Minnesota’s Act on Alzheimer’s:

  • Care costs for Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are projected to increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion by 2050 (in 2013 dollars).

(With no new affordable way to pay for care, the State of Minnesota will be spending a great deal on Alzheimer’s . . . )

  • Many individuals with Alzheimer’s live alone and are at greater risk for inadequate self-care, malnutrition, untreated medical conditions, falls, wandering and accidental deaths. 

(And we think Minnesota has a problem with the cost of hospital readmissions now . . . ?)

  • Nearly 250,000 Minnesotans care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease. These caregivers provide 277 million hours of unpaid care, valued at $3.4 billion yearly. 

(These caregivers are doing a great service, but many are getting financially penalized, which is a sick paradigm. . . )

  • The physical and emotional impact on caregivers results in nearly $9 billion in increased health care costs annually, including $157 million for Minnesota caregivers.

(It’s a vicious high-cost circle that doesn’t have to be . . . )

This Must Be Solved.  Minnesota Can Show the Way.

Thankfully, there are many people with good minds and hearts that live in Minnesota.  And this could very well be the place that a solution(s) comes forth.  As Sen. David Durenberger – who teed this issue up in Congress when it wasn’t in absolute gridlock - recently wrote:

 “We Americans are aging into our predictable disabilities at record speed.  Geriatricians and others who care deeply about us are trying to get the health system’s attention for just a few hours to demonstrate how much we could ‘bend the cost curve’ if we simply tried one or more of the great solutions that have been kicked around for decades.”

Well, we might see Minnesota get beyond dysfunction and show the way nationally.  The Dayton-Prettner Solon administration has convened a wide range of citizens through an effort called “Own Your Future” to explore options identified as possible products (or concepts that could become products) that would provide new options to help middle-income households pay for long-term care. 

Such an approach could make lives better on multiple levels and help strengthen Medical Assistance for low-income Minnesotans. Here's the paper that summarizes these concepts.  A number of the ideas grew out of an earlier citizens work group led by the non-partisan Citizens League.

The Own Your Future group working on this is seeking your feedback and will use it to prepare a report to the Administration on what specific products or concepts have the greatest potential to meet the needs of Minnesota’s middle-income market, and what next steps are necessary to move them forward.  Here are the meeting details and ways to share your thoughts if you can’t attend the meeting in person.

How to Participate

Sponsored by the Advisory Panel for Own Your Future, Subgroup on Product Availability

Friday, October 18, 2013, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Room 2360 (public access, badge not necessary)
Elmer L. Andersen Building
540 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN

If you would like to speak at the public meeting, the State asks that you email ownyourfuture@state.mn.us, and provide your name, mailing address, organization affiliation (if any) and an email and/or telephone number so they may contact you prior to the meeting if necessary.

The State also provides a way for you to provide written comments until October 31, 2013, by emailing your comments to ownyourfuture@state.mn.us or through direct mail to Own Your Future, PO Box 64974, St. Paul, MN 55164-0974.  Contact the Own Your Future staff at 651-431-2606 or 651-431-4908 if you have any questions regarding this public meeting.

Long-term care.  What an opportunity for Minnesota to help show how big ideas can still move forward when people care to move forward for the common good.

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