LTC Bullet: Roll Call's Kondracke Says Stop Medicaid Planning Abuse and Encourage LTCi

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

LTC Comment: The ides of March 2005 bode ill for Medicaid planners but augur well for responsible long-term care planning, providers and insurers. More after the ***news.***

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LTC BULLET: ROLL CALL'S KONDRACKE SAYS STOP MEDICAID PLANNING ABUSE AND ENCOURAGE LTCI

LTC Comment: We're on a roll here! Make that Roll Call. Yesterday, two important articles criticized Medicaid planning abuse and recommended private long-term care insurance.

America's "newspaper of record" editorialized yesterday that "Middle-class people sometimes hide or transfer assets or income, often quite legally, to qualify for nursing home benefits. . . . In seeking to reduce the cost of Medicaid, it will be crucial to look hard at long-term care, which soaks up roughly a third of total Medicaid spending. . . . Citizens have a responsibility to pay their own way as much as possible. Working with the private insurance market to make sure people can get coverage for old age, and making it as automatic as buying car or home insurance, could make a big difference." ("Medicaid in the Cross Hairs," New York Times, March 14, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/14/opinion/14mon1.html )

But the best coverage of this critical issue yesterday was Mort Kondracke's column in Roll Call, the "newspaper of record" for Capitol Hill. LTC Bullets readers may recall that Kondracke, who is well known for his political punditry on Beltway Boys and Special Report with Brit Hume, recently moderated a debate between Center President Steve Moses and the Research Triangle Institute's Josh Wiener on "Long-Term Care: Who Should Pay?" You can still watch the webcast or read the transcript of that debate at http://sagecrossroads.net/Default.aspx?tabid=56 . As he left the studio that afternoon, Kondracke asked Moses for a copy of the Center's report "The Realist's Guide to Medicaid and Long-Term Care" http://www.centerltc.org/realistsguide.pdf . Evidently, he read it and took it to heart.

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Following are excerpts from Roll Call Executive Editor Morton Kondracke's March 14, 2005 column "Medicaid Needs Reform Now. Cuts Can Wait." Sorry, we can't give you a link to the full article, as it requires a subscription the Center does not have. Nor can we share the electronic copy of the article graciously provided by a Roll Call editor when he quickly corrected the error cited below. Read on.

"One Bush reform seems to be a no-brainer. Medicaid is a program for low-income people, yet routinely elderly people with significant assets transfer them to their adult children to become poor on paper so they can become eligible for publicly financed nursing home care.

"Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt calls Medicaid 'an inheritance-protection plan.' An entire wing of the legal profession has sprung up to help the well-off hide assets so they can get the government to pay for nursing homes that can cost up to $60,000 a year.

"According to Stephen Moore [should be Stephen Moses; Roll Call promises to correct this error in today's (3/15/05) paper], president of the Center for Long Term Care Financing in Seattle, you can have practically unlimited income and get the government to pay for nursing home care, because many forms of assets are exempted from calculations of wealth.

"The Bush administration is proposing to tighten rules for asset transfer. It will save only about $4.5 billion over four years. What's needed is a system that encourages (or requires) that seniors with homes take out 'reverse mortgages' that will allow them to pay for nursing home care for one spouse out of home equity while the other lives in the home. [The Center for Long-Term Care Financing estimates this proposal could save Medicaid $20 billion per year and improve the program in the process: http://www.centerltc.org/pubs/howtosavemedicaid.pdf .]

"More important, younger workers should be encouraged--and this is part of the Bush plan--to open a 'Long Term Partnership Account,' an asset that is exempt from calculation of wealth for Medicaid eligibility and can be built up to pay for nursing home care.

"Congress ought to enact a means-tested tax deduction or credit to encourage young people to buy insurance for long-term care. And it ought to make the Medicaid program flexible enough to pay for at-home care, not just nursing home stays."

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LTC Comment: And there you have it: a major national opinion leader recommending, almost word for word, what the Center for Long-Term Care Financing has been proposing for nearly seven years. Congress should follow his advice (and ours.) Help us reach the right people with the right analysis and recommendations by contributing generously to the Center at http://www.centerltc.com/support/index.htm . Please ask your trade associations to support the Center also. Help us save Medicaid for the needy and improve long-term care access and quality by encouraging private LTC financing alternatives.

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Following is a brief biography of Morton Kondracke from the WebMD website: http://webcenter.health.webmd.netscape.com/content/Biography/8/102938.htm .

"Morton M. Kondracke is the executive editor and a columnist for Roll Call, an independent newspaper based in Washington D.C. that focuses on politics and the federal government. He is also a regular commentator for the Fox News Channel and is co-host of the weekly political show The Beltway Boys. Previous activities include serving as a panelist for The McLaughlin Group, This Week with David Brinkley, and the Reagan-Mondale Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy in 1984. He was the executive editor of The New Republic, Washington Bureau Chief for Newsweek, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a correspondent for The Chicago Sun-Times, and a White House correspondent.

"Kondracke is the author of Saving Milly: Love, Politics and Parkinsonís Disease, which chronicles his wifeís descent into Parkinsonís disease and the impact it had on him as a primary caregiver. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and a board member of Parkinson's Action Network, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, and Funding First.

"Kondracke was educated at Dartmouth College and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University."