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Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, left, visits Wednesday with Ruth Cazer, a Bethesda Pleasantview resident, during a roundtable discussion at the nursing home. The meeting was held to highlight new legislation that impacts senior citizens, as well as a wage increase for nursing home workers. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Minnesota legislators tout bills that benefit seniors

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WILLMAR -- Based on the applause from senior citizens who met with local lawmakers Wednesday at a Willmar care center, there's appreciation for legislation approved this year that could improve care for seniors and improve pay for those providing the care.

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"We actually put some money and some resources into taking care of people and to making sure that, as people age, they're able to live their lives in dignity and have a quality of life," said Rep. Andrew Falk, who was one of three DFLers who met with residents at Bethesda Pleasant View in a roundtable discussion.

That legislation includes a 5 percent increase for nursing home providers that will fund raises for employees and funding for quality assessment.

Another 3.2 percent increase will go to nursing home providers in 2015.

A 1 percent increase for long-term care providers is also in the budget, as well as the elimination of a 1.67 percent budget cut that was to be implemented in July.

The state sets the reimbursement rates to nursing facilities.

Falk called the increases "far overdue."

Falk, of rural Murdock, and Rep. Mary Sawatzky, of Willmar, were joined by House Majority Leader Erin Murphy of St. Paul, who has been touring the state talking about the senior-friendly bills.

Murphy said legislators have "really been able to deliver what Minnesotans asked us to deliver on," including balancing the state budget, investing in schools and "we did put a lot of priority on making sure we're honoring our commitment to senior citizens, to the people who have brought the rest of us along and made this the great state that it is."

Part of the budget increase in funding for nursing homes goes to ensuring that all nursing homes in the state are providing quality care so that residents "have the quality of life that they are expecting," said Murphy.

She said the pay raise for people who care for the elderly and disabled will help attract and recruit skilled workers that provide vital care.

The legislators also highlighted other bills, including legislation to help protect seniors from scams that involve transmitting money and "no-excuse" absentee voting that will allow people to cast absentee votes without having to provide a reason.

Murphy said an enhanced renters' credit that was approved this year could help 17,000 aging and disabled residents, and a new sick leave law will let people use personal sick time from work to care for parents.

Murphy said the action taken by the Legislature is a step in "honoring and respecting the seniors of Minnesota."

Doug Dewane, director of Bethesda Pleasant View, thanked the legislators for their past actions. "But don't forget us next year," he said.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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