Tuesday, 15 March 2016 00:05

A National Plan for Long-Term Care Insurance Needed Now

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With more and more of us living longer and longer, we need a long term care solution more than ever.


"About half of all senior citizens will need to spend about $138,000 for personal care over two years" -

Yet, for one in seven, five years of care becomes necessary, and the cost "is far beyond the ability to pay.” This according to Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute. And that five-year cost can exceed $250,000.

Now a nonpartisan group, the Long Term Care Financing Collaborative, has called for a push for a new national universal policy for just that – Long Term Care for Seniors. The Urban Institute is a part of that Collaborative.

With a goal of getting employers to automatically enroll their employees in long-term care insurance policies at work, with employees paying regularly toward insurance from each paycheck, businesses would get insurance companies to offer long-term care insurance again after fleeing the market during the last few years, and getting people to enroll in more affordable insurance than has been offered previously.

Many Americans do not realize that Medicare and other health insurance will not cover long term care such as bathing, dressing and other help seniors often end up needing as they become frail or suffer debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's later in life. Referred to as ADL’s or "Activities of Daily Living", this is care that seniors and their families can be left with, often becoming a crushing financial burden.

The group emphasized that family responsibility will continue, but the collaborative wishes to lessen the burden. The Urban Institute has estimated that services delivered by family members total about $470 million each year.

"A woman in her 50s who leaves a job to care for aging parents loses an average of $300,000 in lifetime income," the collaborative reported. "Unpaid family caregivers lose an estimated $3 trillion in lost lifetime wages and benefits," while employers suffer $17 billion to $33 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism.

According to the group's research, about half of all senior citizens will need to spend about $138,000 for personal care over two years. Yet, for one in seven, five years of care becomes necessary, and the cost "is far beyond the ability to pay," said Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute. The five-year cost can exceed $250,000.

The Need for Long Term Care
The Need for Long Term Care is Urgent

What about Medicaid?

It’s true, regular health insurance doesn’t cover long-term care, and neither does Medicare. The Medicare program covers only short nursing home stays or limited amounts of home health care when a senior requires skilled nursing or rehab. It does not pay for custodial care, which includes supervision and help with day-to-day tasks. So will Medicaid fill that gap? Not necessarily. You can get help through Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance program for low-income people, but only after you’ve exhausted most of your savings, depleting a retirement nest egg quickly. The median cost of care in a semiprivate nursing home room now tops $80,000 a year, according to Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey.

And if you have to rely on Medicaid, your choices will be limited to the nursing homes that accept payments from the government program. Medicaid does not pay for assisted living in many states.

And so it is easy to understand why groups such as the The Long Term Care Financing Collaborative see such an urgent need to address this growing problem, a lack of adequate and affordable Long Term Care insurance. What is seen as a failure of policy makers to reach agreement on viable solutions has pushed the issue to the forefront.

Today, 10-12 million adults require supports that help them maintain the best possible quality of life, supports and services such as non-medical assistance and help with food preparation, personal hygiene, assistive devices, transportation, as well as help with activities such as bathing and eating. And the number is expected to double by 2030.

What is the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative?

The Collaborative brings together national experts and stakeholders who cross ideological divides in pursuit of a common goal: to improve the way Americans pay and prepare for the non-medical care needed by our frail elders and people living with disabilities to live with dignity and autonomy through consensus-based, concrete policy recommendations. – Convergencepolicy.org

For more about the groups efforts, and a list of the groups participants, you can follow this link to the Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative.

Long Term Care for Seniors is a need that is growing fast. It's good news to see this kind of effort toward finding a long term solution.

 

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