Senior living rules appear to overreach | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Senior living rules appear to overreach

OTHER OPINION:

Posted: January 22, 2012 - 9:30pm

A state requirement that seniors call a consultation line before moving into an assisted living facility smacks of overreach, isn’t sure to save taxpayers much money and annoys some seniors.

On the other hand, it was seen as a way to save the state and taxpayers money on part of the budget that is growing 8.5 percent per year.

The plan, approved by the Republican-led Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton, was sold as something that with little effort could save the state up to $3.5 million a year. The idea was that if seniors knew all of the options available to them upon considering moving from their homes to assisted living or other facilities, they might choose less expensive options and save the state money as it was footing the bill. It might also save the state from paying relatively higher nursing home costs eventually.

Even those who pay their own way must call the consultation line and provide proof, in the form of a verification number, that they did so before they can sign an assisted living contract.

But only about 10 percent of seniors in assisted living have the state pay their bills. Some 90 percent pay their own way.

The state points to a study that showed many seniors would have chosen a different, and presumably less costly option than assisted living had they know all their choices. And they also figure the consultation gets seniors to delay nursing home admittance by about a year. Hence the estimated savings of $3.5 million.

However, the consultation does cost the state about $600,000 a year to administer, so some of the projected savings would be mitigated by that amount.

The law was an honest effort to rein in the state’s budget and the fastest growing part of that budget: health care. Medical costs for the elderly are rising at an 8.5 percent per year clip.

It appears the Legislature will address the issue and perhaps modify the law in 2012. That would be wise.

Certainly, all seniors and their families should try to be educated on the best options for care and the one that makes the most sense for their budget and the budget of the state. And families should take that responsibility seriously. If they don’t, there could be even more severe cuts to these programs, which will leave seniors even less choice.

— The Free Press of Mankato