Politics in Minnesota:Focus on Age WaveOctober 26, 2008| Posted in Front Page Slideshow, Health Care, In the News, Uncategorized
"Thissen thinks that the economic realities of the Age Wave will be the catalyst for change, politically. But he stressed that it's critical to encourage everybody to see themselves in such a way as to personalize the issue."
Published in Politics in Minnesota. The article will be posted after the cut or you can find it here in a few weeks. [You can subscribe to the Weekly Report and get the article right away as well as good, insider coverage of the Minnesota political landscape.]
Advancing Public Policy As Minnesota Ages
Ecumen, the senior services and housing nonprofit, has established space on the group's Website designed to function as a clearinghouse for social and political news related to senior living and long-term care. It's called Changing Aging and it aggregates fascinating pieces from around the Web along with maintaining a blogroll dedicated to issues of advocacy and innovation for those over 50. This week, the site noted a Pioneer Presspiece-"Long-looming age crisis has arrived"-that describes the sharp drop in labor force and productivity, as well as increase in healthcare costs, that will result from boomers aging-what Ecumen and others call the "Age Wave."
The good news is that Minnesota has innovative plans for advancing public policy related to long term care. First, a local journalist has been given a unique opportunity to raise awareness and cover all sides of the issue.
The Pioneer Press piece was written by Jeremy Olson, one in a series that he is penning as part of a health media fellowship funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It includes quotes from a wide range of Minnesota public servants, with former GovernorAl Quie, former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-St. Paul), and Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) all expressing concern on the issue. Thissen and Brod had previously co-written a Strib commentary, which can be found on Thissen's blog. Olson's mission is "an exploration of the long-term care crisis and the social, financial and political solutions" in Minnesota. In another article about new technologies in senior home care, Olson notes that within twenty years, the cost of caring for seniors in Minnesota will triple to $4B (we're already spending $1.5B, third most in the nation). Olson told PIM that he was excited to examine all the pressure points that will shape public policy going forward-from economic and demographic studies, to public health and safety and family dynamics. We look forward to seeing more.
There's also positive energy on Age Wave policy in the Minnesota Legislature. We asked Rep. Thissen, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, if he has any specific legislative goals related to this issue.
His enthusiastic answers indicated the importance in which care for the aging is placed in this influential committee. Despite the materializing crisis, Thissen is markedly optimistic about the projects lined up. "It's a really exciting time," he said. In the upcoming session, he expects to be "fighting the budget," but was confident that important measures could still be passed.
Thissen characterized the long-term care debate in Minnesota currently as a partisan issue, often boiling down to yea-or-nay nursing home funding votes. What he wants to see is the transfer of the issue to a more holistic, long-term issue of health and society. First, saving for retirement is a huge issue; Thissen would like to see a 529-style tax-advantaged retirement savings plan in Minnesota, as has been established in Nebraska. Encouraging Minnesotans to set aside funds for disabilities and health care is understood to be a major goal.
Other goals in the Legislature include continuing the legacy of the Community Consortium Bill, to extend the flexibility of local communities in allocating and distributing health care money. Thissen sees individual freedom with care dollars as an important component of allowing Minnesota seniors to age with dignity and independence.
Thissen thinks that the economic realities of the Age Wave be the catalyst for change, politically. But he stressed that it's critical to change public perception, to encourage everybody to see themselves and their parents or grandparents in such a way as to personalize the issue. He mentioned the idea of convening a summit, with citizen dialogue and bipartisan Legislative support, to address upcoming issues in aging. When Minnesotans have an investment in seeing themselves and their loved ones cared for, Thissen said, "that's how we start to make change."