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LTC Bullet: Shays on LTC

Monday February 1, 1999

Seattle--

Martin Bayne's web site, www.mrltc.com, currently features an "Experts' Corner" interview with Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut. The interview reveals Rep. Shays' keen understanding of LTC financing issues as well as his devotion to finding practical solutions for the future. Center for Long-Term Care Financing President Stephen Moses and Chief Counsel David Rosenfeld have briefed Congressman Shays and Congressional staff several times. Kudos, as well, to Martin Bayne for his insightful questions to this important leader in Congress. The interview is reprinted below.

Experts' Corner
An Interview with
Representative Christopher Shays

MKB: In addition to your Resolution: H. Con. Res. 210, Expressing the Sense of Congress with Respect to Promoting Coverage of Individuals Under Long-Term Care Insurance [ see "LTC Bullet: Rep. Shays Reintroduces LTC Resolution" (1/12/99) at www.centerltc.com ], a number of noteworthy long-term care bills and resolutions were introduced during the 105th session of Congress. Unfortunately, none of them made it out of committee to the floor of the House or Senate. Given the reality of a lame duck, minority, impeached President, what expectations do you have for genuine LTC reform in the 106th session?

Representative Shays: Both the Administration and Members from both parties have expressed a real need to move forward with LTC legislation. More than four years ago, Republicans included in the Contract With America provisions similar to the President's proposal. The President's recent announcement shows broad agreement on the issue and raises it to another level, despite the impending trial in the Senate. LTC reform is long overdue. Congress should pass legislation to make private LTC policies more affordable and more widely available, and it should be done this year.

MKB: You have been steadfast in your determination to bring the subject of long-term care financing into the light of day. H. Con. Res. 210 calls for the "Federal Government (to) take all appropriate steps to inform the public about the financial risks...imposed by long-term care costs." In short, what SHOULD we be doing to help the American public understand the enormous contingent liabilities of long-term health care?

Representative Shays: We need to do two things right off the bat: 1. The federal government should use its resources to educate the public about the value of planning for their long-term care needs. We need to educate and conduct public outreach efforts to protect individuals from financial catastrophes. 2. We should enact tax changes -- like the President's tax credit or penalty free IRA withdrawals for the purchase of LTC -- to make ltc insurance more affordable.

MKB: Why do you appear to feel so strongly about the need for a private sector solution to the problem of long-term care financing?

Representative Shays: As the baby boom generation begins to retire and the over 85 population continues to grow, the need for private long-term care insurance will only escalate. Many will discover Medicare doesn't cover long term care, and they will have to spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid. Not only will this have serious financial repercussions for retirees, their spouses and children, but it will impact Medicaid expenditures as well. Long term care totals
about 40 percent of all Medicaid spending and is increasing about eight percent per year. Spending on Medicaid long term care will grow from $33 billion to $73 billion in 2008. Unless Congress takes steps to encourage individuals to protect their assets, additional financial burdens will be borne by taxpayers.

MKB: If you had the opportunity to address the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys on the issue of "Medicaid Estate Planning" (MEP), what comments would you have?

Representative Shays: Elder law attorneys play a valuable role in protecting people's retirement assets. Making longterm care options more widely available would simplify estate planning for older Americans and their attorneys. The practice of shifting assets to qualify for Medicaid in particular would be less attractive if long-term care plans were widely used.

MKB: You have noted that the "widespread use of private long-term care insurance has the potential to protect families from the catastrophic costs of long-term care services...(and) easing the burden on Medicaid as the baby boom generation ages." How do we encourage the young, healthy, baby boomers to purchase a policy during their working years?

Representative Shays: Clearly the first step is education to make people think about their lifetime financial well-being, which is one goal of the Long Term Care Resolution I introduced. In addition, private companies should encourage long term care policies wrapped in annuities to combine an investment vehicle with an insurance product. That would encourage healthy baby boomers to begin planning for the inevitable, and to look at long term care protection as an attractive option.

*****

One of the most effective members of Congress, Christopher Shays has worked to gather bipartisan support for a number of important initiatives. He is a senior member of the House
Budget Committee and chairs its Working Group on Health Care. He is also a senior member of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, chairing its Human Resources Subcom-mittee, which investigates waste, fraud and abuse in the departments of Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs. According to Politics In America, published by Congressional Quarterly: "Republicans and Democrats have often been in a state of near-war since Shays joined the House in 1987, but he has successfully cut his own path, one that has him siding with Democrats on some high-profile issues and leading the GOP charge on others."