California, the Affordable Care Act and Long-Term Care: Policy Implications for Nationwide Care

Article excerpt

Though California is beset with budget and financial woes, the Golden State's long-term-care policy decisions have implications and influence across the nation. But one can take solace in the advent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the multitude of skilled individuals who aim to improve long-term-care services. The SCAN Foundation's Long-Term Care Policy Forum, held during the 2011 Aging in America Conference in San Francisco, gathered a "who's who" in aging- each expert ready with statistics, solutions and hope.

The briefing session (underwritten in part by The SCAN Foundation and hosted by ASA's Public Policy Committee) began with remarks by Dr. Bruce Chernof, The SCAN Foundation's president and CEO, who set an aggressive tone for the afternoon when talking about ACA provisions: "If we don't...work synergistically, we've missed a golden opportunity. The point is to mobilize."

California voters are unprepared for aging and don't know how to pay for services, Chernof added, revealing that many people's nest eggs have dwindled, a substantial number live off Social Security, 57% can't afford more than three months of in-home care, 66% couldn't afford more than six months in a nursing home and only 20% know that Medicare doesn't cover long-term care.

When Social Security first passed, life expectancy was only 62, and when Medicare-Medicaid passed it was only expected to provide four years coverage, on average. Now that people routinely live to age 78, and 80% of people die from either one or multiple chronic conditions, the Administration on Aging is primarily underfunded-and Chernof believes there's a paucity of public policy addressing functional security.

"We love CLASS [Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program]," he says. CLASS will help the next class of elders start to plan differently for their old age, not only improving care, but keeping it in the community. California's CLASS office just received a $1 million planning grant: that's where some hope comes in.

The ACA Can Help

California's acting director for the Department of Aging, Lora Connolly, in a panel on the ACA and its affect on aging services, reiterated that California is one of four states to receive grants related to the ACA, and one grant alone will allow 11,000 Californians to enroll in healthcare, saving more than $400 million. …