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LTC Bullet: LTC is Hot!

Monday January 11, 1999

Seattle--

We all know public awareness is a critical part of solving the long-term care financing crisis. Thanks to the President's recent focus on the issue, long-term care is in the news big time these days! That is great news even if the Clinton plan itself is deficient. Here is some of the coverage we think may interest you.

The "New York Times" editorialized today (1/11/99) about the President's new LTC plan: "President Clinton's proposal on long-term care will give only modest help to most individuals
with debilitating illnesses and family members who are caring for them and no help at all to the very poor. But it might do some good if it puts the long-term care problem on the nation's
political agenda and becomes a starting point for increased Federal involvement. The issue cannot be put off for long as millions of baby boomers begin facing potentially huge long-term care costs for themselves or their parents." So far so good, but then the Times continues to perpetuate the myth of Medicaid spend-down: "Medicaid...is available only to people with extremely low incomes. Others have to deplete nearly all of their assets before qualifying for Medicaid." This is ridiculous. New York City residents who need nursing home care can qualify for Medicaid benefits despite having incomes of over $7,000 per month, more if they are married. Most assets are exempt already or they are easy to divest or convert to exempt status. Evidently, the Times editorialist forgot what the newspaper said back on April 14, 1996 when it editorialized correctly against "the blatant and often unethical misuse of the [Medicaid] program by well-to-do patients in nursing homes. These patients exploit legal loopholes to transfer their wealth to their children, thus technically impoverishing themselves and providing themselves with inexpensive nursing home care. What was supposed to be a program for the poor has turned into a boondoggle for everyone else.... The system is a scandal."

The "Investor's Business Daily" ran a front page story by Laura Litvan today entitled "Long-Term-Care Troubles Loom: Some Fear Taxpayers Will Pick Up Boomers' Tabs." This piece comments on the danger of deflating the market for long-term care insurance by providing too much public financing. It cites Center President Stephen Moses to the effect that: "We just keep applying more anesthesia, when what we really need is a root canal."

The current "National Journal" contains an article entitled "Another Looming Crisis" by Marilyn Werber Serafini. Here the focus is on the hidden crisis of long-term care which is usually overshadowed by the Social Security and Medicare problems. The Center for Long-Term Care Financing was cited at length in this article: "'It sounds very seductive to take Medicaid and
Medicare money, pool it together and manage it and carefully identify people's levels of need. Keep them at home, then move them to assisted living, and use the nursing homes as a last resort,' Moses said. 'But this is suicidal to the Medicaid program. For every person in a nursing home,' he said, 'there are two or three with comparable or even more-severe disabilities getting by at home. Half,' he said, 'are incontinent, bedridden, or both. If you make publicly financed home care available…if you offer free care at a level that people want--assisted living and home care--people come out of the woodwork. As a result,' he said, 'Medicaid could be overwhelmed. 'It sends the message to the public: "Don't worry about long-term care. If you ever need it, we'll be there for you," and that's why we're staring into the abyss as boomers move through Social Security and Medicare to the thermonuclear time bomb of long-term care.'"

Carl Hulse of the "New York Times" Washington Bureau put a column on the wires January 6 entitled "Plan Could Trigger National Dialogue on Long-Term Care." He says it will be "available to dozens of newspapers" and "will run in many places." Hulse cites the Center's criticism of the new Clinton LTC plan: "It treats the symptoms and not the underlying problems."

Watch for additional coverage based on input from the Center for Long-Term Care Financing forthcoming from ABC News, the New York Times, Consumer's Research magazine, and
McKnight's Long-Term Care News. Things are poppin'!
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