Rep. Stang talked about issues important to senior citizens. Among the issues he mentioned were property tax breaks for seniors. Taxpayers over the age of 65 could defer a portion of their property tax burden if theyíve lived in their homes for more than 15 years and their total annual household income does not exceed $30,000.
Also, a senior citizen could defer up to five percent of the total household income, not to exceed an aggregate value of 75 percent of the propertyís worth. In exchange, the county treasurer would issue a lien against the property, payable when the house is sold, the owner dies or discontinues the deferment, or the property no longer qualifies as a homestead. The provision is aimed at preventing senior citizens who live on fixed incomes from being priced out of their homes by rising property values and taxes.
Senior citizen prescription drugs
Governor Carlson vetoed a plan to make the state a purchasing agent in buying prescription drugs for senior citizens. Proponents of the plan argued thatóbecause prescription drug prices are so high for seniorsóonly a large buyer, such as the state, could have enough purchasing power to buy drugs at a lower cost and pass those savings on to senior citizens.
Property tax relief
Most Minnesota taxpayers will receive a rebate of some sort next spring, based on the amount of property taxes they paid in 1997. The rebate will be a credit on 1998 income tax forms. Homeowners will get back 20 percent of their 1997 property tax paid, while renters will get a rebate of about four percent of the total rent paid in 1997. Farmers will get a rebate of 20 percent of the property tax paid on the first 320 acres of their farms in 1997. There is no cap on the rebate amount, and there is no income limit.
Medical savings accounts
Legislation passed this session allows state-chartered financial institutions to act as custodians for medical savings plans, whether they have the general power to act as trustees on the same basis as federally-chartered financial institutions. An MSA is a trust or custodial account established to pay medical expenses in conjunction with a high deductible health plan. This bill allows state-chartered financial institutions to act as custodians of MSAs on the same basis they now do for IRAs and Keough plans.
Reforms to the MinnesotaCare insurance program, for low income Minnesotans, were passed in light of surpluses in the program accumulating at almost $100 million per year. Expansion of the program included increasing the eligibility limit for childless adults from 135 percent of the poverty level to 175 percent. A new prescription drug benefit was established for seniors earning up to 120 percent of poverty, and a $10,000 limit on inpatient services to adults with children was lifted for adults with children with incomes below 175 percent of poverty.
Living at home nursing
The Omnibus Health and Human Services bill provides an additional $650,000 to expand from 15 to 27 the number of living-at-home/block nurse programs. These community-based programs, which are located throughout the state, enable seniors to live independently in their homes. To avoid nursing homes, the programs provide nurse home visits and coordinate health and personal care services on a sliding fee basis. They also provide homemaking services, counseling and health training for the elderly and his or her family.
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