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Seniors quiz Holle, Langseth, Marquart

Last Monday, Oct. 23, Minnesota State House and Senate election candidates for District 9B met at The Madison in Detroit Lakes for a candidate forum focusing exclusively on senior issues.

In attendance were State Rep. Paul Marquart, Sen. Keith Langseth and Paul Holle, Langseth's challenger. Long-term care insurance was the focus of the discussion, with all three candidates in agreement that it is an increasing need for the "baby boomer" generation, now approaching retirement age.

In fact, in the next 25 years, the number of Minnesotans over age 65 is expected to double, rising to 1.4 million, and by 2030, older people will represent over 20 percent of the state's population.

By contrast, Marquart noted, 48 long-term care facilities in the state have closed since 2000.

The more troubling statistic, according to forum moderator Adam Suomala of the Minnesota Health & Housing Alliance, is that a recent study found an estimated 29 percent of the state's "boomers" -- over 500,000 individuals -- will not have enough retirement income to pay for their health and long-term care costs over and above basic living expenses.

"We need to create more incentives for long term care insurance," Marquart said, referencing tax credits as one possible incentive to consider. Enabling seniors to continue living safely and securely in their homes for as long as possible would also hold down long term care costs overall, he added.

"Long term care is one of the most important issues we have in rural Minnesota right now," Marquart said.

Holle, meanwhile, feels more careful oversight of how long term care funding from the state is being spent might be the right way to go.

"Long term care insurance is definitely something more people are going to have to start going to," he added. The problem with setting up a "health care savings account" or similar plan is that "no one has any money -- money to save, money to take out another insurance policy...," Holle added.

"I'm not a 'raise taxes' person," he said. "No one has the money to pay more... the 'boomers' are going to have to pull in their belts and start a health care savings plan."

"About 65 percent of people in nursing homes right now are on medical assistance," said Langseth. "They start out paying their way, but run out of money.

"The 'boomer' generation needs to take a serious look at long term care insurance."

If a person signs up at age 50 or earlier, he or she "can get very affordable long term care insurance," Langseth added.

Other issues discussed at the forum were unfunded and under-funded state and federal mandates with regard to nursing home regulations; access to home and community-based services that would allow seniors to remain in their homes longer; and the need for updating antiquated nursing facility infrastructure around the state.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454