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Minnesota GOP says it will deliver more elderly care provisions

ST. PAUL - Minnesota House Republicans say they are putting a priority on aiding the state's elderly, but when they announced that Monday they said much of the package is yet to be written.

Minnesota state Reps. Joe Schomacker of Luverne and Peggy Bennett of Albert Lea tell reporters Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, that House Republicans will have a package of bills next year to help senior citizens. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
Minnesota state Reps. Joe Schomacker of Luverne and Peggy Bennett of Albert Lea tell reporters Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, that House Republicans will have a package of bills next year to help senior citizens. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL – Minnesota House Republicans say they are putting a priority on aiding the state's elderly, but when they announced that Monday they said much of the package is yet to be written.

A highlight of the GOP plan is eliminating state income taxes on Social Security, which would cost the state $237 million in 2016-2017 and $641 million in the following two-year budget.

The tax plan already has passed the House and awaits action in a House-Senate tax conference committee after the Legislature convenes March 8.

Republicans would allow life insurance policies to be used to cover long-term care costs. They also suggest encouraging high schools and adult education programs to graduate more certified nursing assistants who would work in nursing homes and other settings dealing with senior citizens.

Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said more proposals for the elderly are on the way.

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Some initiatives will look at ways technology can be used to improve seniors' lives, such as connecting patients with far-away doctors via video. Schomacker also said he is looking into a plan to encourage more "backyard cottages" in which seniors could live next to children, but without paying a tax burden.

Schomacker said he did not have a cost for the proposals other than removing tax from Social Security.

The chairman of the House Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee also did not express support for a bill by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, to pump $90 million into home care programs for the state's elderly and disabled.

Schomacker said a trend that more people turn 65 than children enter kindergarten will continue for two decades, necessitating more elderly programs.

Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, called for giving Minnesotan options of turning their life insurance into long-term care policies. "We think all Minnesotans should have options when they age."

When children leave home, parents have less need for life insurance, Bennett said, so life insurance policies that provide long-term care coverage could help. Many such policies would bring higher premiums.

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