The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 17, 2012

Spear column: End-of-life decisions matter beyond the individual

When the Minnesota lieutenant governor’s office called me a few days ago, the topic seemed a bit unusual for a discussion with a public official.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon wanted to talk about end-of-life decisions and long-term care insurance. The topic has particular relevance for her.

When her husband, former state Sen. Sam Solon, died 11 years ago, the news hit hard, she told me in a phone conversation Wednesday. After his diagnosis, he was given a few months to live.

They had no plans for the end-of-life decisions and it turned into a situation Prettner Solon describes as “very stressful.” An estate sale, probate court, selling the house and moving to an apartment changed her life dramatically and rapidly.

From that experience she promised herself she would not put her children through what she had gone through. She put her affairs in order, set up a will, established a living trust and bought long-term care insurance.

She’s now the main advocate for a state and national program to get people to take these issues seriously. She’s spearheading Minnesota’s Own Your Future campaign.

The effort focuses on three issues: raise awareness among people, especially those 40 to 65, to make some kind of long-term care plan; to work with insurance providers in helping them provide affordable long-term care insurance and other products; and to raise awareness among taxpayers that if we don’t act, we will all pay more.

The reality is hard to refute. For those 65 and older, 70 percent will use some kind of long-term care, Prettner Solon said. And the number of people who are 65 and older will grow by 107 percent between now and 2030. Those who will need to foot at least part of the bill through taxes — those under 65 — will grow by only 6 percent.

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