Minnesota lieutenant governor urges baby boomers to prepare for long-term care needsYvonne Prettner Solon is spearheading the state’s “Own Your Future Minnesota” campaign, using everything from the U.S. mail to a website to urge residents to plan ahead for their long-term-care needs.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
When state Sen. Sam Solon died in December 2001, his widow had more to deal with than her grief.
“He didn’t have a will, he didn’t have a trust, he didn’t have anything set up,” said Yvonne Prettner Solon, who followed her husband to serve the western part of Duluth in the state Senate and now is Minnesota’s lieutenant governor.
Prettner Solon vowed to not leave her children in the same situation. Within three months, she had set up a trust and purchased long-term-care insurance, she said in an interview on Thursday.
Now in her official capacity, she’s urging Minnesota’s baby boomers to take similar steps.
Prettner Solon is spearheading the state’s “Own Your Future Minnesota” campaign, using everything from the U.S. mail to a website to urge residents to plan ahead for their long-term-care needs.
Most of us will experience those needs: The evidence shows that 70 percent of people who reach the age of 65 will need long-term care, Prettner Solon said, citing the National Clearing House for Long-Term Care Information.
That’s a human problem, but it’s also a problem for federal and state governments, she said, because of the high cost of long-term care. The average annual cost for nursing-home care in Minnesota is $76,650 for a semi-private room, according to the Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey. Medicare covers only a short-term stay in a nursing home. For those lacking some sort of long-term-care payment plan, the costs can quickly bankrupt them. They lose their savings, their children lose their inheritance and the state takes over their cost of care through Medicaid.
But the cost to the states threatens to become “unsustainable,” Prettner Solon said.
In Minnesota, it’s estimated the state will be paying $5 billion for long-term care by 2030, based on current trends, she said. The problem is exacerbated by the aging of the baby boomer generation. In 2010, just under 13 percent of the state’s population was 65 or older, according to U.S. Census data. That percentage is expected to rise to nearly 21 percent by 2030. In Northeastern Minnesota, it’s expected to rise from just over 17 percent to more than 26 percent.
That’s why Minnesotans between the ages of 40 and 65 received a letter from Gov. Mark Dayton and Prettner Solon last month alerting them to the Own Your Future campaign and referring them to the campaign’s website. Minnesota is the 27th state to conduct such a campaign, but the first to rely largely on a website to help residents evaluate their choices, said LaRhae Grindal Knatterud, director for aging transformation with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Knatterud said the website got about 40,000 hits the week after the letter was sent out. That number has fallen off in succeeding weeks, but the amount of time spent for visits has increased from about 90 seconds to about 5 minutes. That indicates people are taking a more serious look at their options, she said.
Knatterud and Prettner Solon are asking groups such as employers, unions and faith communities to encourage baby boomers in their midst to take the effort seriously. They addressed the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce as part of that initiative on Thursday.
The Own Your Future website doesn’t push a specific plan, Knatterud said. Nor is it just about considering financial options. For example, it suggests that residents planning to stay in their homes for the long term be prepared by having a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen on the main floor.