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Jon Riewer and Susan Christenson, Published March 08 2013

Letter: ‘We owe it to our seniors’

Last week, a bipartisan group of Minnesota legislators stood together at the state Capitol and said that they intend to make our seniors and senior care workers a top priority this legislative session. Citizens from Moorhead and across northwestern Minnesota need to know that one of the leaders of this bipartisan group of legislators was our own Sen. Kent Eken.

Sen. Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, told the media and Minnesotans, “Today we are proposing a bill that would take a significant step toward addressing the chronic underfunding of senior care services by providing up to a 5 percent increase to nursing homes and Elderly Waiver providers for each year of the biennium. With this legislation we can provide care for our seniors in a way that honors their contribution to the state and nation while giving them an opportunity to grow old with dignity and independence.”

We applaud Sen. Eken for making Minnesota seniors and their caregivers a priority. We thank him for standing together with Republicans and Democrats alike from every part of the state to focus on this issue this year.

This year, we have an incredible opportunity, with leaders like Sen. Eken, to create a sustainable, long-term infrastructure for the future to support our seniors and their caregivers. Chronic underfunding of our senior care system has meant that those who care for our parents and grandparents are underpaid. As providers of senior care services, we recognize that our staff deserves more.

What citizens may not fully understand is that Minnesota lawmakers actually control a large portion of revenues collected by nursing homes. Not only do they set the Medical Assistance rates in nursing homes, but state law requires that nursing homes charge that same rate to privately paying citizens. The state also controls the rates that cover home care services for low-income seniors. Those rates have been cut by double digits over the past four years. Last week we learned that Minnesota’s budget outlook has improved. That is why it is so meaningful to us all to see our leaders standing together this year to value our seniors and their caregivers. With this positive budget news, there are no excuses for the rest of the legislature and the governor’s office not to join Sen. Eken and his colleagues in supporting investments in senior care.

We serve business leaders, veterans, farmers and so many others who have built our communities. As Sen. Eken put so eloquently, “We owe it to our seniors to provide care that honors their contribution to the state and nation while giving them an opportunity to grow old with dignity and independence.”

And we owe it to those who care for those seniors to compensate them in a way that is commensurate with that wonderful responsibility.

Riewer is with Eventide, Moorhead; Christenson is with Moorhead Manor.