KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Policy Panel: Long-Term Care Should Be Part Of Health Reform

Experts argue long-term care should be part of health reform, according to CQ HealthBeat.

A conference Tuesday at the Tax Policy Center focused on the need for "cheaper, better-coordinated care for elderly and disabled Americans." CQ reports that panelists argue that "proposals such as an insurance program for long-term care likely won't be included in overhaul legislation, but providing for the about 10 million Americans who require long-term care has become too complicated and expensive." Howard Gleckman, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute, said "the United States spends about $230 billion a year for paid care, and that amount will increase as baby boomers age and medical advances increase life expectancy. Only about 7 percent of that spending is covered by private insurance; Medicare and Medicaid pay for about 60 percent. Gleckman said private long-term care insurance is expensive, and most people don't realize that Medicare or other health insurance won't cover all long-term care costs."

Panelists said federal attention to long-term care as part of health overhaul legislation could reduce costs and burdens on society. William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said: "The fiscal consequences of doing nothing, I think, are intolerable and unsustainable"" Galston has "proposed requiring Americans over the age of 40 to buy insurance that would pay for five years of care before Medicaid took over."

The discussion comes after "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced legislation (S 697) to create a national insurance program for long-term care funded by payroll deductions... that was included in a draft version of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's overhaul legislation." Still, Gleckman said long-term care provisions in Clinton-era health legislation were cut before that overhaul effort failed while panelists said politicians would likely balk at imposing new taxes." CQ reports: "President Obama hasn't discussed long-term care insurance, and young voters who support him may not be interested in paying for more insurance for something they may never need" (Stephenson, 6/16).

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