Minnesota Mandates Senior Housing Counseling; ALFA “Shocked”

Minnesotan Republican lawmakers are requiring seniors to get counseling prior to entering assisted living or other senior housing as part of a Health and Human Services budget bill meant to slow the state’s spending growth, upsetting many in the senior housing industry.

Section 14 of Minnesota Statutes 2010, section 256B.0911 has been amended to read, “Registered housing with services establishments shall inform all prospective residents of the availability of long-term care consultation and the need to receive and verify the consultation prior to signing a lease or contract,” effectively mandating counseling, rather than offering or recommending it.

This blanket requirement includes seniors who are intending to enter senior housing facilities as private pay residents, and thus demonstrates a governmental overreach, says Maribeth Bersani, the senior vice president of public policy for the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA).

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“I think we were shocked to see the scope of this bill include private pay residents as well as low-income Medicaid residents,” says Bersani, speaking as well for ALFA’s Minnesota affiliate.

“The fact that the state is requiring [counseling] for private pay residents just seems above and beyond the authority they have,” she says. “As a private pay person you have the right to spend that money the way you want, and to make the long term care decision you want.”

There are many benefits to having people receive education as to long term care options so they can make the “best decision possible,” says Bersani, and ALFA supports this education as long as it isn’t biased toward one form of long term care over another.

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The legislation requires the consultation to be performed in a “manner that provides objective and complete information,” but Bersani isn’t sure the Minnesotan lawmakers aren’t just thinking about their bottom line.

“Our concern is that, we’re not sure that the intent is to help people make the best decision for them, but rather for cost savings, and that’s disturbing to us,” she says. “For anybody, you should be able to live in the community that best meets your needs. If that’s the best option for you, you should be allowed to do that.”

Being placed in an appropriate facility is key, says Representative Jim Abeler, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, in a Minnesota Public Radio News article.

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“The challenge is to place people in the correct site,” Abeler says in the article. “If you actually do that, it’s actually less expensive and a better quality of life for the people.”

It’s difficult to find information about the range of long term care services, and this initiative helps meet that need, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services told SHN.

“It’s a service to help people find the services that are best for them,” she says.

Representative Abeler was not available for comment at press time.

The law takes effect on Oct. 1. View the legislation here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace