Leighton backs proposal for long-term care

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 11, 2001

State Rep.

Sunday, March 11, 2001

State Rep. Rob Leighton (DFL-Austin) has joined a bipartisan effort to help change the way long-term care in the state is delivered.

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Leighton said he hopes the efforts will ensure that every senior has access to quality care.

"This is about fulfilling a promise to our parents and grandparents and ensuring they get the care they need and deserve," Leighton said.

"It’s also about increasing the options available to seniors so that more of them can remain independent and continue to live in their homes," he said.

The Long-Term Care Imperative, which Leighton supports, takes a number of approaches to help strengthen the long-term care system in the state, including:

Grants to local governments and providers to develop new services for other adults and identify new ways to meet those needs.

More flexibility in the way funding for senior services can be used.

Incentives to attract quality workers to the long-term care industry, including access to health care benefits and tuition loan forgiveness.

Better background checks for temporary workers hired by nursing homes and limits to the amounts temporary agencies can charge to those homes.

A new, fairer payment system for nursing homes that includes a 3 percent reimbursement increase for all nursing homes, an additional increase of $1 per staff-hour at each nursing home, the establishment of a statewide floor for nursing home reimbursement rates and a 12 percent increase in reimbursement rates for community-based services, including those provided to assisted living facilities.

A Nursing Home Facility Conversion Program within the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to convert nursing home beds/services into assisted living or other affordable housing for seniors.

The total cost for the Long-Term Care Initiative, which is supported by a coalition of long-term care providers and the Minnesota Health and Housing Association, is projected at $533 million.

"I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us that our system for long-term care needs to change," Leighton said. "In rural communities, nursing homes and long-term care providers do more than just care for the elderly and the inform. They also are major employers and provide an invaluable link in the health care system. More importantly, they also preserve the connection between families."

"With all of the challenges facing the long-term care industry, a changing market, a growing worker shortage and an expanding senior population, we need to take steps to make sure that the quality of care doesn’t suffer," he said.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at newsroom@austindailyherald.com.