The Commission on Long Term Care appointed by Congress to study and make recommendations about the rapidly escalating crisis facing Americans and their ability to pay for long term care, met for the first time in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 27thand the Commission’s prognosis was dire.
It has long been known that once the Baby Boom generation started turning 65 the pressure on our country’s ability to fund everyone’s long term care needs would become almost impossible. We are now facing a Silver Tsunami of Baby Boomers turning 65 at a pace of 10,000 people every day and Medicare and Medicaid cannot keep up. With 30% of the Medicaid population consuming 87% of Medicaid dollars spent on long term care services (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011) our country has reached a breaking point that will require more reliance on individuals using their own resources to pay for care—and the Commission agrees!
In an article published by the Kaiser Health News entitled, Facing A Tight Deadline, Long-Term Care Panel Holds First Meeting, they provided details from the proceedings: During the Committee hearing, panelists explained to the Committee members that the public safety net can no longer sustain the pressure put upon it and private market alternatives must come forth. According to G. William Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center, “Medicare and Medicaid have become the major source of long-term care, and cannot continue at the current pace,” he said. Americans should be encouraged to increase their retirement savings so that these programs are relied on as a last resort.
In addition, using long-term care insurance to pay expenses is not an option for many Americans, as premiums rise and companies that can’t make a profit leave the market, said Marc Cohen, an industry consultant. Most of the long-term care policies available are sold by only 12 insurers, he said.
“We know that 70 percent of people over the age 65 will need some form of long-term services and support,” said Dr. Bruce Chernof, the commission’s chairman.
Although government programs provide a significant portion of long-term care, none offer the full range of services people need, said Kirsten Colello, a health and aging policy specialist at the Congressional Research Service.
“The fact is that each of us will need these services and supports at some point in our lifetimes,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who added the commission to the fiscal cliff compromise, said in a statement Thursday. “The question is whether most Americans can afford to pay for them.”
Public policy, law makers and the realties that every family faces when confronted with the costs of long term care are now intersecting at a very precarious moment in our nation’s history. We are experiencing an explosion of aging Baby Boomers and longer life expectancies among seniors, but diminished financial resources across the board which has brought together a perfect storm of factors we must now confront.
The simple fact is more responsibility is going to be placed back on the individual and their families to find the resources necessary to handle the costs of long term care. Private market solutions other than long term care insurance will be required, and thankfully people are now waking up to the realization that billions of dollars from converting life insurance policies into Long Term Care Benefits is going to become an important part of the equation.