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I first want to thank Governor Dayton, Lt. Governor Prettner Solon and Commissioner Jesson for their leadership in beginning to educate Minnesotans on the very important issue of aging and financial security.

Our new old age demands innovation and new solutions. We're living longer than ever. Until the 1970s, the phrase Alzheimer's was largely isolated to medical journals. Today, nearly 100,000 Minnesotans have it, with thousands of more cases to come.

At Ecumen, we have nearly 4,000 employees who provide senior housing and services across Minnesota. They've heard me speak many times about the need for new ways to pay for care. Medicaid as a default long-term care insurance policy isn't viable. And Own Your Future helps us raise that issue.

The issue of aging and financial security impacts everyone, especially businesses. I'm sure there are people here today who have missed work to bring a loved one to the doctor or to provide care. For many, it's a brutal juggling act. According to national Gallup research, family caregivers of seniors miss work 126 million days a year at a productivity loss of just over $25 billion.

Today's new old age holds tremendous opportunity to build on the steps taken today and create new ways to help Minnesotans take ownership of their future while preserving a safety net for those who cannot escape poverty.

The Citizens League has introduced a number of good ideas, such as seeking a waiver to pilot Medicaid as a co-insurance that could work with private insurance or other vehicles. Another idea is creating a state-backed home equity product that would safely allow people to access their home equity for Alzheimer's and other care needs. We need to explore these and other ideas to improve Minnesotans' lives and their financial security.

In closing, I thank the leaders here today for creating this first step. It's a step that opens the door to further collaboration to build a better future for Minnesotans. Our new old age holds tremendous innovation opportunity. And we have to walk through that door together to seize it.

Kathryn Roberts remarks
October 2012
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