KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Long Term Care Insurance Receives Attention

Congress is turning its' attention to long-term care insurance producing information about how such insurance may help consumers make informed decisions for their long-term care needs.

U.S. News & World Report reports on LTCI, which "is not health insurance but protection against progressive deterioration that renders people incapable of caring for themselves physically or mentally." The magazine notes that "the cost of dealing with these conditions can be staggering, depleting life savings and forcing people into poverty" and describes this type of insurance as "an expensive and complicated product... sold by a shrinking number of financially challenged insurers and subject to differing state rules that aren't always effectively enforced."

The magazine reports that while this insurance is perhaps "only a footnote in the national debate about health-care reform, rising concerns about the quality and affordability of elder care aren't going away, even with major health reforms." It also reported on recent Congressional activity on LTCI, noting that: "Last week, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herb Kohl introduced a bill to strengthen consumer safeguards for LTCI and standardize state rules. Other proposals include tax breaks to make LTCI policies more affordable and a measure introduced by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy to create a publicly administered LTCI program that offered private policies to employees in a fashion similar to a 401(k) plan."

U.S. News & World Report described people's motivations for buying this insurance, including the fear of outliving financial assets, dramatic gains in life expectancies haven't been matched by comparable improvements in retirement finances, a fear of Alzheimer's Disease and the desire not to become financial and emotional burdens on one's children. The magazine breaks down who needs it, what it covers and how much it costs (Moeller, 6/10).

McKnight's Long Term Care News & Assisted Living reports on the Senate HELP committee health plan released Tuesday by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, noting that it "includes, among other things, a long-term care insurance proposal that would help fund nursing home stays for the disabled, supplementing Medicaid as the reimbursement source" (6/11).

The New York Daily News also reports on the provision for long-term care in Kennedy's plan: "Addressing an increasing area of concern as the baby boom generation ages, Americans will be able to buy long-term care insurance from the government for about $65 per month. The program is designed to help disabled and elderly individuals pay for at-home care, avoiding a costly move to a nursing home. People would need to pay into the program for at least five years to receive coverage. The benefit, not less than $50 per day, would be modest, but it could be used to cover a wide range of services that would help keep people in their homes" (Nocera, 6/10).

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