June 2, 2014 at 11:00 am

Snyder announces programs to aid older adults

Gov. Rick Snyder urges more care for senior citizens as he speaks to representatives from nonprofits, businesses and adult advocacy organizations at the Older Persons' Commission in Rochester on Monday. (Max Ortiz)

Rochester — Michigan is going to put people above programs in its plan for long-term care for the elderly, Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday during a special message to the Legislature on aging.

“The simple truth is that Michigan has work to do to prepare for its growing older adult population,” Snyder said while visiting the Older Persons’ Commission in Rochester.

Like the rest of the nation, much of the state’s population is aging and living longer. Nearly 2 million Michiganians are 60 or older, a 20 percent increase in the past 10 years.

By 2030, one in four Michigan residents will be 60 and over.

To make the state’s long-term care system easier to access and reach more people, Snyder announced several new and expanded programs for older adults.

Among the programs Snyder discussed was MI Health Link, where services will be integrated into a single health-care delivery model. A pilot will begin next year for more than 100,000 older adults in the Upper Peninsula, eight counties in southwest Michigan, and Wayne and Macomb counties.

“Despite this progress, we know there is more work to be done,” Snyder said. “Michigan has numerous programs that need to be packaged in a way that will be easily accessible. Currently, it is challenging for older adults and their families to figure out what aging services are available to them.”

Snyder also announced a website that will be launched in 2015 for one-stop shopping for services for the aging.

He emphasized a commitment to community and home-based services to support older adults’ independence and choices.

The state will continue to support health and wellness programs for older adults through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, created by the Legislature in 2013 with $100 million to focus on programs for children and older adults.

Meanwhile, the governor encouraged older adults to stay independent, maintain a healthy lifestyle, be active and engaged, and achieve financial security in retirement.

“To ensure Michigan is a great place to age well, the state, the private sector, our communities and each Michigander will need to do his or her part,” Snyder said.

But Democrats criticized Snyder on Monday for imposing the income tax on some pensions and reducing a popular homestead property tax exemption for senior citizens.

“I did find it ironic that part of the governor’s message today was ensuring seniors save for retirement. Well, you just started taxing them,” said Bob McCann, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.

In 2011, Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature removed income tax exemptions on private and public pensions for anyone born after 1952. They also exempted the first $20,000 for individuals and $40,000 for couples for pension recipients born between 1946 and 1952.

Public sector pension income for senior citizens born prior to 1946 remains tax free.

But private sector pensions that exceed $48,302 for individuals and $96,605 for married couples are subject to the 4.25 percent income tax for residents 68 or older.

Prior to the tax law changes Snyder made, some generous private sector pensions were subject to the income tax, but public pensions were entirely exempted.

Chad Livengood contributed.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder shakes hands with leaders from non-profits, ... (Max Ortiz / Detroit News)