The U.S. is running out of time to remedy its long-term health care crisis, Dr. Bruce Chernof, chairman of the Federal Commission on Long-term Care, told Chicago’s NPR affiliate. As long-term care insurance dries up and becomes more expensive, millions of baby boomers must begin planning now for uncertain futures.
“It’s important to recognize that we are going to age differently than our grandparents did,” Chernof said, “because 70 percent of folks over the age of 65 will need, on average, about three years of long-term services and support.” Twenty percent will need five years or more. Planning is vital because federal benefits will most likely be scarce; such care is not covered through standard health insurance and is not a prominent portion of Medicare or Medicaid.
But while planning for long-term care is essential, the few available options are expensive. Current long-term care insurance has a price, dependent on when one buys it, one’s medical history and how much care one wants. “We have products that aren’t available to the majority of people who might want them, and we have challenges getting people to understand and to make a choice to plan,” Chernof said.
Even though long-term care insurance has been available for more than 20 years, the industry has faced challenges from conservative investments and historically low interest rates, contributing to higher premiums. “I don’t think anybody would have predicted this if we had this discussion in 2006,” Chernof said. Reuters reports that policyholders have faced double-digit rate hikes. Policy prices are about 20 percent higher this year than in 2012, according to the American Association for Long-term Care Insurance.
Adults should be aiming for long-term care insurance by age 40, he said, since premiums are likely to become much more expensive. Nationally, Chernof suggests building the private long-term care insurance market.
While the biological clock ticks, so does the time Chernof’s commission has to come up with solutions to fix long-term care: 80 days. The commission came about as a result of the January deal that averted the controversial “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts. The commission is composed of only 15 members (9 Democrats and 6 Republicans) with fundamental differences in opinion.
The commission first convened in late June and is operating with severe limitations– they can only meet during the next four months, there is no permanent staff and the commission will be disbanded after final recommendations are sent to Congress. Congress has no obligation to consider any of the commission’s recommendations.
About the Author:
Daniel Gaitan serves as a content producer for lifemattersmedia.org, a provider of information, resources and support for all involved in end of life decision-making. He writes and manages the Life Matters Media Newswire and keeps the organization active in social media. He has contributed to Chicago’s WGN-TV, the Associated Press, the Kenosha News and the Milwaukee Shepherd Express. Daniel particularly enjoys writing features and reporting religion, politics and health care.
He recently graduated with his master’s degree from DePaul University’s College of Communication, where he finished his undergraduate studies. A member of Theta Alpha Kappa, a society for religious studies and theology, Daniel finds the intersections of religion, culture and politics to be particularly relevant in today’s globalized world. In his spare time, he enjoys researching first century Christianity.