Striking a Public and Private Balance

Article excerpt

Dear Mr. President:

Our society is encouraged by improvements in life expectancy and the variety of interventions that can moderate progressive, intermittent frailty. However, these developments do not in all cases diminish people's need for care and services over an extended period. Such care has and will have economic and emotional costs, as well as offer work opportunities for millions of people now and in the years ahead.

Many simply will not, no matter how provident they have been throughout their lives, have personal resources to Uve with any kind of dignity. States, already hard pressed to accommodate the long-term care of their people, are facing crushing burdens even before the boomers enter into the period of high risk for assistance.

The demographics are such that simply relying on intergenerational transfers, either through public programs or family activities, is not realistic. In addition, frailty is idiosyncratic, varying person by person not only because of the nature of individuals' physical capacities but also because of their differing social and economic circumstances.

What should trigger the use of public and private benefits is people's limited ability to deal with the challenges of everyday living. Benefits should feature maximum individual control for meeting individual needs.

In addition, our system must conserve some of our nation's current social and personal productivity for future need. For example, new measures should create incentives for individuals to save more and participate in long-term care insurance.or other such vehicles to help secure their future. …