LTC Bullet:  Senators Focus on Caregiving Challenges

Friday, March 22, 2002

Seattle--

*** Our next LTC Graduate Seminar will be held Monday, April 22, 2002 at the Comfort Inn -- BWI Airport near Baltimore, Maryland.  Follow this link for all the latest details on this extraordinary program:  http://www.centerltc.com/ltc_grad_seminar.htm.  Call or email Amy Marohn to register (425-377-9500 or amy@centerltc.org). ***

*** We've been deluged with queries on how to enter The Zone.  We'll publish guidelines for corporate access to the donor-only zone next week.  For individuals, it's simple, just go to http://www.centerltc.com/support/index.htm, contribute $100 or more online or by mailing a check, then email your desired user name and password (up to 10 characters each) to amy@centerltc.org.  Amy will register you ASAP and let you know as soon as you are zone-ready by return email.  Zone in! ***

*** The Center for Long-Term Care Financing is no longer partnering with the Corporation for Long-Term Care Certification (CLTCC) to produce LTC E-Alerts.  The Center will continue to publish the E-Alerts--in honor of their creator, Dr. George Sherman--in our donor-only zone "LTC Week in Review."  We thank the CLTCC for their past sponsorship and we invite new corporate sponsors to apply.  Contact Amy Marohn at amy@centerltc.org if you would like to sponsor LTC Week in Review and/or an LTC Bullet.  Five new alerts to be added to the LTC Week in Review feature in The Zone on Monday are listed at the end of this Bullet. ***

LTC Bullet:  Senators Focus on Caregiving Challenges

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing last month titled, “Women and Aging:  Bearing the Burden of Long-Term Care.”  Statements of committee members and witness testimony can be found at http://www.senate.gov/~aging/hr76.htm.  Below are representative quotes from participating senators.  Testimony was also given by Laurie Young of the Older Women’s League (OWL) and Gail Hunt of the National Alliance for Caregiving.  While a greater role for government was a constant theme in the remarks of most participants (of course, without any discussion of how to pay for it), the need for a more comprehensive approach to funding long-term care which promotes private financing alternatives was also stressed.  We encourage the Senate Special Committee on Aging to consider the Center for LTC Financing’s “LTC Choice” framework for public policy reform as it considers how best to address our caregiving challenge and related long-term care issues.  The Center’s “LTC Choice” white paper can be found on-line in .pdf format at http://www.centerltc.org/pubs/CLTCFReport.pdf.

Sen. John Breaux (D-LA)

“We lack a cohesive long-term care system in this country and we will pay a dear price for this when the baby boomers retire.  What we do have does little to support long-term care programs that promote independent living such as home and community based care.  Addressing the need for a comprehensive long-term care system in this country requires most of all creating policies that recognize the role of caregivers.  Otherwise, we will face a national crisis when the baby boom generation retires.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

“My dear father suffered from Alzheimer's disease.  My family and I watched him die one brain cell at a time.  I know what families live through when a loved one ages and needs more care, eventually more than you alone can provide.  Everywhere I travel around Maryland, people come up to me and tell me what a big issue long-term care is for their family.”

“Women are more often the ones who provide care to loved ones and who eventually need care themselves.  Three-quarters of caregivers are women.  Women live longer than men and are more than twice as likely to live in a nursing home.  Caregivers and their families face mental, emotional, physical, and financial stresses and strains.  Some caregivers work three shifts - caring for children, working a full-time job, and caring for an elderly parent at home.”

Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR)

“Caregiving will continue to be an issue well into the 21st century as the baby boomer generation ages.  This has brought the concerns of caregivers into the public policy debate both on Capitol Hill and in State Legislatures around the country.  Many decision makers in both the public and private sectors are even themselves directly or indirectly affected by this issue . . . .”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

“When I was 15, my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and had to quit his job, so Mom worked.  She got every one of us kids off to college, and she worked full time as my Dad's caregiver.  When other mothers were taking trips to Hawaii after their kids were grown, my mom was lifting my dad out of bed and dressing him every single morning.  When her friends learned to play bridge and golf, my mom learned how to get a motorized wheel chair in and out of the car.  When other moms cared for grandchildren, my mom was making dinner and feeding my dad.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

“Long-term care is the major catastrophic health care expense faced by older Americans.  It is therefore particularly troubling that, while women are at greater risk of needing long-term care than men, they are usually far less prepared for the financial consequences.  In a recent poll of baby boomers, only 27 percent of women surveyed had more than $100,000 in their retirement plans. Thirty-three percent of the women surveyed reported having less than $25,000, an amount that would not even be sufficient to cover one year of nursing home costs.”

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

“Recently, we also made long-term care insurance available to federal employees.  This is a major step forward in making long-term care insurance affordable and accessible for as many as 13 million people.  That's 13 million people who will have an opportunity to protect themselves and their families against financial ruin as they age.  What's also important about this law is that it's going to serve as a benchmark for the private sector.  The government is setting a standard by offering this insurance, and I'm confident that we have created a model that industry will want to follow. 

“Also, I co-sponsored the Long-Term Care Security Act, which will allow taxpayers to deduct the cost of long-term care insurance premiums and would provide tax credits for long-term care expenses.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

“You all have heard the statistics and what they tell you is that wives are caring for husbands, mothers are caring for children, and grandmothers are caring for entire extended families.  Our economy is reliant upon this uncompensated care provided by loving family members, most of who are women.  Many of these woman face difficult choices between family and work and because of time away from the workforce may jeopardize their retirement savings, as well. Unfortunately, Michigan's women are facing ever decreasing choices in acquiring or retaining long term care services and help for themselves or their families.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

“We must also must address the need for greater long-term care financing. Medicaid now pays for nearly 40% of all long-term care spending.  But Medicaid, originally designed as safety net health coverage for low-income families, not as long-term care financing for middle-income families.  Yet the expenses of long term care can wipe a family out, and thus many middle-class families find themselves quickly spending down all their savings and end up on Medicaid for publicly financed support.  Now a large bulk of Medicaid spending consists of long-term, not acute care expenditures. [LTC Comment:  While anecdotal evidence of catastrophic spend-down to qualify for Medicaid nursing home care abounds, it is not a reality for most people.  The Center for LTC Financing has demonstrated that most funding of nursing home care comes directly or indirectly from government programs or residents’ income.  Only 10-20 percent of funding for nursing home care comes potentially from the assets of residents.]

“We need new financing tools that are better suited to middle-income seniors, and families with modest incomes and assets.  I have talked with many New Yorkers about what they want out of such a system.  They like the idea of a joint state-federal program, to help make long-term care affordable.  They want to be responsible for their share of costs, but they don't want to lose all their assets either.  They like having a program separate from Medicaid, and they also like flexibility, so they can decide what services to buy -- whether it's paying for a home health aide, or an adult day care program, or transportation services, or nursing home care.”  [LTC Comment:  The Center’s “LTC Choice” framework for public policy reform addresses all of these desires and concerns.]

*** New content for Monday in our donor-only zone "LTC Week in Review" includes:  "Don't Count on VA for LTC," " Will John Q Take over a Nursing Home Next?," "They Can't Charge Us for a Bed That Doesn't Exist," "More Proof LTC is a Woman's Issue," and "Dodge Alzheimer's and Reverse Stroke." ***