The COVID-19 pandemic made a noticeable impact on some long-term care programs available in Morrison County throughout 2020 and during the early months of 2021.
Cyndi Bachan, maintenance supervisor with Morrison County Social Services, said the applications taken by the long-term care unit were down in recent months. There were 151 applications in January through May 2021, compared to 176 during the same time period in 2020. The effect of COVID-19 is visible, however, in the fact 145 of those applications in 2020 were made in January through March — only 31 came in April and May 2020, after the pandemic started taking its toll.
Phone calls to Social Services about long-term care also dropped significantly, with 263 coming in during April 2021 and 254 in April 2020. That is a sharp decline from the 444 calls received in April 2019.
“Part of the reason for that is, currently we can’t close anyone on health care unless they’ve moved or passed away,” Bachan said. “Clients aren’t receiving paperwork where they need to get different verifications in, so they’re not calling with those kinds of questions or wondering why their cases are closed, and so on.”
That means, even if a resident is no longer eligible for long-term care services, their case can’t be closed unless they die, move out of state or request to have it closed. This is because of a federal moratorium that was put in place to ensure people did not lose health insurance during the pandemic.
Social Services Director Brad Vold said, due to those waivers, the department’s caseload is up, despite the fact applications are down from previous years. In a sense, he said Social Services is in a bit of a limbo state.
“Once the waivers are eliminated — and I think they’re going to look at a ramp-down period for health care cases just because of the amount of them,” Vold said. “Once those waivers end, staff will have a lot of renewals, a lot of information to go over, especially when you talk about the long-term care population and assets and all of that.”
Other aspects of long-term care through the county have not been impacted as much.
The number of residents on the Medicare Savings Program — in which the county covers their Medicare premium — has remained level, in the neighborhood of 800, as it was at the end of 2019 and 2020. The number of residents in supportive housing, formerly known as Group Residential Housing or housing support, has also remained steady. There were 201 residents receiving this service as of May 31, compared to 191 on Dec. 31, 2020, and 203 at the end of 2019.
The number of people receiving Minnesota Supplemental Assistance, 46, General Assistance, 23, and SNAP Benefits, 118, is also on par with what is typical for Morrison County.
Through May, Morrison County had paid out $12,946 for burial expenses. This is available to residents receiving long-term care service through the county who cannot afford funeral expenses. That compares to the $56,305 total spent in 2020, putting the county on pace to remain steady in that area, as well.
“This is one of those areas where we never know how much we might spend, depending on how many individuals are in need that don’t have the resources to pay for their funerals,” Vold said.
“Sadly, along with that, of course, as I’ve preached every time with us baby boomers, there’s going to be more county burials coming,” Bachan added.
Of the total spent on burials in 2020, $12,405 was recovered through a state program. Thus far, $3,888 has been collected in 2021.
Another service the county can help residents receive is long-term care partner insurance. According to Bachan, this works when someone has long-term care insurance and ends up paying for some of their own care in a facility, are eventually allowed to go back home, but end up in the facility again.
The partner insurance allows the residents to protect as many of the assets as they have expended while in the facility the first time around.
“If the insurance paid $150,000 for you, the first time you are in, when you go back in or if your spouse were to go in, you’re able to protect that $150,000 of your own assets, plus the $3,000 that is actually the asset limit,” Bachan said. “It’s a pretty good benefit.”