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Aging Services of Minnesota advocacy is only as strong as our members.   And our members have powerful voices that are affecting change!

Now is great time to put your voices and grassroots advocacy skills to work!  The legislature is officially on its Passover/Easter spring break, and many legislators are back in their districts.  Here are some things you can do to advocate for older adult services this week.

  1. Download information from our online grassroots advocacy toolkit
  2. Attend a legislative town hall meeting or “eggs and issues” breakfast to discuss older adult services, using the information provided in the toolkit
  3. Invite legislators to your care center or housing establishment to see the good work being done
  4. Write a letter to the editor using the information provided in the toolkit and submit this week so it is printed while legislators are home

Finally, don’t forget another great advocacy opportunity: District Days at the Capitol start next week!  Register now for your district’s meeting and come ready to advocate on behalf of older adult services!

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Tonight the U.S. House of Representatives passed federal health care reform.  Included in that reform is the CLASS Act.  President Obama is expected to sign the legislation almost immediately.

The passage of the CLASS Act is an extraordinary move forward for home and community-based services as well as long-term care financing reform.  It provides the opportunity for all Americans to receive long-term care insurance when they need it, and allows them to purchase the kind of assistance they need to remain independent in the community.

AAHSA and Aging Services of Minnesota have supported the CLASS Act since the health care reform debate started last year.  And soon it will be law.

Thank you to everyone who has advocated on behalf of CLASS by contacting your congresspeople.  This has been a year-long campaign and your work has finally paid off!

Update:  President Obama signed health care reform, and the CLASS Act, into law on Tuesday, March 23.  You can read more information about it in this summary provided by AAHSA.

PACE, or Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, made major headway this week when it passed the Senate HHS Budget committee.

That’s right.  Senator Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) and her committee voted in favor of finally funding and implementing PACE in Minnesota.  In fact, she said “Congratulations and good luck” to the bill’s author, Sen. Kathy  Sheran (DFL-Mankato) and PACE’s proponents, including Dan Lindh of Presbyterian Homes and Services.

PACE was passed to the Senate’s full Finance Committee.  The House version of the bill has also passed the House HHS policy committee to the House HHS finance committee.

Aging Services of Minnesota, along with the Long-Term Care Imperative, has made implementing PACE a priority this legislative session.  Here’s to a successful start to this endeavor!

Thank you to everyone who has called and emailed your legislators about HF3442 (Hosch).  Thanks to your advocacy, the bill no longer includes mandatory transitional consultation (ie, diversion from HWS).   In addition, your support for the repeal of rate equalization has meant this repeal remains in the legislation.

Legislators have told Aging Services advocacy staff that these calls and letters have also made a difference in how the House has set its budget targets for HHS.  Your grassroots advocacy increased awareness of the seriousness of the Hosch proposal among legislators not familiar with HHS issues, which in turn increased support for keeping the amount of money needed to cut from HHS smaller than it would otherwise have been.

So on behalf of Aging Services, THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK!

And keep it up!  We have our work cut our for us this legislative session, and we can’t do it without you.  HF3442 was laid over for possible inclusion in the House’s HHS budget omnibus bill — which means we may see some of these provisions again.  We need your help to continue to oppose this onerous piece of legislation.

HF3442 (Hosch) was introduced today in the House.  Although it is being introduced to generate discussion and promote reform, there are a number of problematic provisions in the legislation.

HF3442 is being heard this Thursday in the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.

This bill includes the following provisions, which Aging Services is strongly opposed to:

  • Mandatory transitional consultation (“diversion”) for private pay individuals seeking to move into a HWS setting.  Individuals would need to have a certificate proving they have had this counseling before being allowed to move into HWS.  This was proposed last year by Senator Bergling in conference committee and successfully defeated.
  • Cuts to Elderly Waiver customized living based on the density of HWS per 1000 individuals aged 65 and over within a certain geographic area, with rate cuts tiered by “high concentration “, “medium concentration”, and “low concentration”.
  • Cuts to care centers based on payor mix.  The amount of private pay would determine the amount of the MA rate cut.
  • Medicare “carve-out” within rebasing.
  • Nearly doubling the fees for a Class F license.
  • Raising the HWS registration fee to $2000.

HF 3442 also includes the phase out of rate equalization and unfreezes rebasing.

This bill has been introduced based on the following assumptions:

  1. The state should choose which part of the service continuum can absorb cuts and which part can’t, because of the need to preserve some sort of infrastructure in a time of on-going budget deficits.
  2. HWS is too overbuilt, too expensive and causing spend down, and consumers don’t have adequate information about their other options.

There is also simply a lack of understanding about how HWS plays an important role in the service continuum.  Without home and community-based services like HWS, individuals unnecessarily wind up in more expensive care.  HWS provides the right care, at the right time, in the setting of an individual’s choice.  The state should not be determining that choice.

In short, this is not the kind of reform that serves Minnesotans well.  The best ways to reform the system are to continue funding cost-effective HCBS; provide incentives to individuals to save for their long-term care needs; and support a range of options for consumer to choose from.  HF3442 goes in the opposite direction.

Minnesota’s updated economic forecast was released today and the shocking news was…not much.

It turns out the $1.2 billion deficit has diminished somewhat to $994 million for the remainder of the FY2010-11 biennium.  This is due in large part to lower spending in the HHS budget, including $51 million less in continuing care.  $24 million of the $51 million is lower care center spending.   Minnesota also received an $83 million refund from the federal government for money related to HHS spending.

Unfortunately things are looking worse for next year.  The next biennium sees a $400 million increase in the deficit to $5.8 billion.

So, it is probably obvious to say that things will only get more interesting at the legislature.  Even though the economy is in a slow recovery, the state’s  budget is in tough shape and will be for awhile.  The governor’s supplemental budget proposal seeks to balance the remainder of the 2010-11 fiscal biennium.  However,  this is his last legislative session, and there is no incentive for him to offer solutions to the ongoing deficit.  And all 201 legislative seats are up for election — meaning quite a bit of politicking is going on around the budget.  Add to the mix a few legislators who are running for governor, and it is difficult to see how any tough solutions for addressing the structural deficit are viable.

The coming weeks will be a critical time for advocacy at the capitol, as legislators will soon begin putting together their budget proposals.  Make sure to stay connected to Aging Services advocacy at our legislative message website and our Long-Term Care Imperative Rolling Grassroots Toolkit site.

And of course, thank you for everything you do!

This afternoon, the DFL-controlled House of Representatives attempted but failed to override Governor Pawleny’s veto of the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) legislation.  This bill to extend Minnesota’s health care program for the state’s poorest citizens passed both bodies with overwhelming majorities but was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty.

Why does this matter to providers of older adult services?  Fiscally, there is a huge impact to the state budget, because the individuals will be moved into MinnesotaCare.  The funding source for MinnesotaCare cannot sustain the increase in enrollment and will become insolvent in FY2011, necessitating the need for a transfer of about $100 million from the General Fund to the Health Care Access Fund to cover the gap.

Politically, this sets up a scenario for a very volatile session.  There has already been trouble over the bonding bill and differences in approaching how to balance the budget (for a number of years).  Add to this election politics — all 201 legislative seats are up for election and many of the gubernatorial candidates are current legislators, not to mention the current governor’s travels around the country hint at a run for higher office — you have yourself some hard feelings on both sides of the aisle.

In short, everything done this session will be even more political than it has been in the recent past.   And our advocacy work is cut out for us!

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Aging matters to all of us.

This blog will address the issues, questions, challenges and opportunities that surface as we work to meet the demands of an aging population.

It’s also a place to highlight the people and organizations whose passion, creativity and commitment are shaping the future of older adult services in Minnesota.

Everyone has a story about how aging impacts their life – we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your story.

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