Congress Urged to Give Long-Term Care Higher Priority

Health Care Financing Review, Summer 1992 | Go to article overview

Congress Urged to Give Long-Term Care Higher Priority


The American Association of Homes for the Aging (AAHA) has urged Congress to assign long-term care financing a higher priority on the Nation's health care reform agenda.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Medicare and Long-term Care, AAHA President Sheldon Goldberg said that, until the Senate hearing and the recent introduction of the Long-Term Care Family Protection Act, long-term care financing had been largely missing from the health care reform debate. "Yet," he said, "long-term care is the single greatest financial risk most older Americans and their families will ever face."

Not many older people can afford to pay $30,000 a year out of pocket for nursing home care, Goldberg said, especially when the median income is only $22,000 a year for families headed by older persons and $9,500 for older people living alone. Health reform, he said, "must address how to assist older Americans and their families in meeting the catastrophic costs of long-term care" without first spending themselves into poverty.

"AAHA has long believed that those who can afford to finance their own care should do so, conserving scarce public resources for the truly needy," Goldberg said. "If fewer people spent down to Medicaid eligibility, the severe strain on federal and state Medicaid budgets could be eased."

National studies show that up to 40 percent of the 65 years of age or over population could afford a reasonable level of long-term care insurance now, Goldberg said. Insurance could be made affordable for a larger group, he said, through a combination of Federal tax incentives to promote insurance, enactment of a catastrophic long-term care benefit linked to Medicare, and public education. As a result, consumers would come to view private long-term care insurance as a necessary extension of their Medicare and Medicare supplement (medigap) coverage.

Commenting on specifics of the Long-term Care Family Protection Act, Goldberg said, "AAHA supports the bill's proposed tax incentives to promote private long-term care insurance and has long advocated the consumer protection

standards for insurance the bill suggests. AAHA applauds the legislation's efforts to ensure access to a wide array of long-term care services, such as home health care, adult day care and respite care, as well as nursing home care. …

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