By now, you may have heard about several recommendations made by the Federal Commission on Long Term Care for older Americans. These recommendations came in late 2013 and unfortunately, they did nothing for actually fixing the problems. Many thought the group would endorse one of the many programs being offered for long term care solutions, but for whatever reasons, it opted not to even do that much.
James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging said at the time, “We’re disappointed. They kind of ducked the most important issue.”
Missed Deadlines and Not Enough Time
This particular commission was put into place in 2012 by Congress after the Class Act provision of the new healthcare law was dropped. It was dropped mostly because there were very few resources assigned to it, too short of a timeframe to establish it and a series of missed deadlines by those who could have made a difference.
In fact, Firman pointed out that many elder groups referred to it as a “semi-serious, halfhearted effort on behalf of the Congress”. He did, however, have hopes that the new panel would prove to be a better resource with viable solutions. It could be that the ever-growing costs associated with long term care for the elderly was a reason for a failure of a better turnout. Between the public programs and families out of pocket costs, $317 billion is spent on long-term care services every year. That includes nursing homes, home health aides and other facilities. Further, some estimates of unpaid care and unpaid caregivers are at $450 billion and 42 million, respectively.
Better Long Term Care Solutions Must be Secured
Still, with more than 12 million older Americans who rely on these services, better solutions must be found. Many have made provisions in the estate planning efforts, but far more have not. Considered with the baby boomers, the problems come into clear focus. Only impoverished older Americans and people with disabilities receive funding for long-term care through state Medicaid programs. Medicare does not ordinarily pay for long-term care.
The commission did endorse more long term care opportunities in “community settings”, integrating long term care with medical care and improving the standards for home health care workers. None could agree on how to pay for those endorsements, though. They also penned a letter to President Obama stating “the commission’s recommendations should not increase the existing budgetary commitment to health care faced by both state and federal governments.” And that was that.
Many had hopes for the CLASS program, a public insurance program that would help pay for long term care at home. Workers could choose to pay into the program via payroll deductions. Non-working retirees would not be eligible, but it did seem like a fine start. Unfortunately, Congress repealed it last year and there are no plans in the near future of introducing it again.
For now, many soon-to-be-retirees are doubling up in their efforts of covering the proverbial bases via their estate plans. Trusts are being set up and insurance policies are being secured. It does nothing for those who are now in a difficult spot of not being able to cover much-needed long term care at home, though.
Finally, now that the new healthcare laws aren’t in the headlines on a daily basis, it’s likely these efforts will once again take a back seat in terms of priorities by our elected leaders.