October 21, 2010 at 8:16 a.m.
Very few differences emerged among the contenders as they answered questions from the audience. The forum was supposed to be focused on "senior services and long term care issues" but rapidly broadened to other issues.
Independent Party candidate for the House, Curtis Lendt; who is in his 70s and has had the most personal experience with state policies regarding seniors' issues, mentioned that he bought long term care insurance years ago. He was disappointed in how long it took his homecare claim to be processed by the insurer after he submitted bills.
Lendt stressed that older Americans who have children or family should be discussing buying long term and catastrophic healthcare policies, and that a consumer should take steps to check out the company.
Rick Olseen, incumbent for Senate, said his experience with his own parents was that the insurance doesn't cover "the full freight" but it is a good percentage of the daily nursing home rate. He would support, as would all the other candidates, some level of state tax incentive (credit) for people who hold insurance for their care.
Sean Nienow, who is challenging Olseen, said "The reality is we need to get people paying their own way (nursing home costs.)"
Cindy Erickson, a candidate for the House, agreed the state should begin promoting insurance and other funding options so that Minnesotans don't have to pick up the majority of facility care bills.
Candidate Lendt said costs could be reduced by lessening restrictions on who qualifies to be paid to provide care. He felt his homecare experience would have been less expensive if the company hadn't required certain skill levels and qualifications for his visiting care providers.
Candidate Bob Barrett said state government has to make it cheaper to do business in Minnesota and that will keep costs contained. Barrett referred to his mother raising four children on her wages working in a nursing home in South Dakota.
Barrett added that the state budget would be positively affected if the "defined benefit" plans for state employees were rejected, and contracts allowed for straight pension contributions, not a "guarantee" of a level of retirement benefit the state can not fiscally provide.
Barrett stated Democrats have used money to solve problems in the past and it hasn't worked.
Olseen pointed out that it was under a GOP legislature that the "granny tax" on nursing home rate payers was started, but the money was deposited into the general fund. He hopes the next governor accepts the offer of early enrollment in federal funding available through Medicare. Pawlenty's overall policies in his term "hurt the state," Olseen remarked.
Niewnow said Governor Pawlenty is no longer "part of the equation" and he wouldn't comment on Pawlenty rejecting the Medicare enrollment program funds. But, Nienow added that enrollment costs money.
Olseen responded the enrollment match was budgeted, and participating would have sent $7 to Minnesota for every $1 contributed from here. Only 13 states with well-functioning programs even qualified to do early federal enrollment.
The event was videotaped and is to be rebroadcast on public access cable television channels. Check your cable T.V. information schedules for airtimes.