Across Minnesota, dedicated caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living are working hard to provide safe, quality care and ensure our state’s seniors age well with the respect, care and support they deserve.
That is why it is so unfortunate to read about recent developments at the State Capitol. Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota House DFL are proposing funding cuts to nursing homes and creating funding disparities of up to 20 percent based solely on a zip code rather than the needs of our aging citizens and those who provide them with care.
A $68 million cut to nursing homes is a giant step backwards in what was once progressive reform to ensure access to safe, quality care for our rapidly-growing aging population and improve the wages and benefits of professional caregivers.
In 2015, the Minnesota Legislature approved a new funding formula for nursing homes that based reimbursement on the actual cost of providing care. Because of this investment in senior care, St. Francis Health Services was able to increase nursing wages and benefits by 33 percent. We were able to provide fully paid health insurance for our employees working over 30 hours per week. We became more competitive amidst a shrinking labor pool in the communities in which we serve, improving our ability to recruit and retain staff as well as create pathways to help them advance in their careers. It also provided a sense of certainty and stability to the seniors we serve today and those who may one day require skilled nursing care.
The funding cuts proposed by Governor Walz and the Minnesota House DFL is the wrong direction for Minnesota. Our senior population is soaring as 60,000 people will turn 65 this year and every year through 2030. Over the next decade, Minnesota will need an additional 25,000 professional caregivers to help take care of them. Already, workforce shortages are restricting care for seniors. More than 4,000 seniors were turned away from nursing homes last year because they lacked the necessary staffing.
How do we properly care for our growing senior population when the state is cutting support to the places and the people who care for them? This is the time for Minnesota to support and invest in our aging population and the dedicated caregivers who help them age well and live life with purpose in the place they call home.