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LTC Bullet: New York Times Misinformed on LTC Insurance

Monday June 6, 1998


This morning's New York Times contained an article about long-term care financing. The article accurately conveyed the gravity of long-term care as a personal and public policy issue. Unfortunately, some information in the article regarding private long-term care insurance was inaccurate and misleading. Furthermore, the author of the article cited exclusively sources who promote public financing and denigrate private financing of long-term care. The following is a letter to the editor of the New York Times regarding the long-term care article from Stephen A. Moses, President of the Center for Long-Term Care Financing in Seattle, Washington. The Center has also sent a hard copy of this letter, along with extensive information about the benefits of private long-term care insurance and the deficiencies of Medicaid and Medicare, to the Editor of the Times and to the author of the article. We strongly encourage those of you who share our views on this issue to write to the Editor of the New York Times and convey your thoughts.

June 8, 1998

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

To the Editor:

You were wise to spotlight the personal and financial tragedy of long-term care for the elderly ("Gap in Long-Term Care Coverage for Elderly Seen as Growing Threat," June 8, 1998.) Sara Rimer's article accurately conveyed the heart-rending vulnerability of middle-aged, middle-class Americans and their parents to the devastation of long-term chronic illness. It is true, as the article suggests, that long-term care will dwarf Social Security and Medicare in importance as a public policy crisis in the future. If baby boomers are the Titanic, long-term care is the iceberg.

Unfortunately, the problem is even worse than your article suggests. Medicaid, the government's nursing-home financing system, is a means-tested public assistance program, i.e. welfare. It has a dismal reputation for problems of access, quality, reimbursement, discrimination and institutional bias. Medicare, the government's home-care financing system, is reeling from skyrocketing cost and is fraught with fraud. Both Medicaid and Medicare face severe fiscal pressure and offer no hope whatsoever of financing long-term care for the baby-boom generation.

There is hope from another source, however. Private long-term care insurance is not nearly as unaffordable as your article suggests. Excellent coverage is readily available for half the cost of the premiums you cited. Furthermore, even lower premiums are possible by carefully prioritizing coverage options to cover only genuinely catastrophic risks. Finally, most people can readily afford private long-term care insurance, even at older ages when it is more expensive, if they look to home equity conversion or financial help from adult children to assist with the premiums.

Please capitalize on this fine beginning. Revisit the subject often and in depth. In the future, however, it might be advisable not to rely exclusively on experts who promote public financing and downplay private financing of long-term care. If we at the Center for Long-Term Care Financing can render any assistance in that regard, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Stephen A. Moses, President
Center for Long-Term Care Financing