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Blue Ribbon Panel Calls for Reform in Long-Term Care, Substantial Commitment of Federal Resources

Poll Shows Baby Boomers, Seniors Concerned About Paying for Care

For Immediate Release: November 14, 2005
Contact: Jill Braunstein, (203) 452-8097

Washington, DC—A panel of experts from the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) is calling for fundamental reforms in financing long-term care, including a substantial commitment of federal resources. A poll released today along with the panel's report finds a high level of public concern about paying for long-term care and widespread discontent with the current system of financing.

“The American public understands that the financing of long-term care is a serious policy problem and seems receptive to change,” said Judith Feder, study panel co-chair and Dean of the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University. “According to our research, even those less concerned about the problem are troubled that the current system impoverishes people before it helps them.” The poll shows that seven in ten baby boomers and seniors believe that the government should do more to help people meet the cost of long-term care.

“Members of the panel feel strongly that a better long-term care system is essential to enable all Americans, regardless of age or disability, to participate fully in our society,” said Sheila P. Burke, the panel's other co-chair and Deputy Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. “The current long-term care system falls far short of meeting reasonable expectations. Achieving a system that meets individual needs and distributes costs equitably will require greater federal involvement and financing.”

Because the need for long-term care is a risk, not a certainty, the panel recommends that it should be handled through insurance, like other unpredictable and potentially catastrophic events. The study panel does not endorse one particular solution but identifies two promising approaches. One option, modeled on Social Security, would provide universal access to a basic, limited long-term care benefit, supplemented by private insurance for the better-off and enhanced public protection for the low-income population. Another option would establish a national floor of income and asset protection that would reform or replace Medicaid's coverage of long-term care.

These findings come at a time when the baby boomers are approaching retirement and interest in long-term care policy is growing. Two bipartisan long-term proposals have recently been introduced in the Senate: S.1602, sponsored by Senators Grassley, Clinton, and Bayh, and S. 1951, offered by Senators Kennedy and DeWine.

The panel's conclusions, as well as the results of the poll, are described in its final report, Developing a Better Long-Term Care Policy: A Vision and Strategy for America's Future, available for download free-of-charge from the NASI website at www.nasi.org. More information about the poll can be found in an accompanying issue brief, Long-Term Care: The Public's View. Another issue brief, Long-Term Care: Models from Abroad, illustrates how other countries have devised long-term care systems that balance public financing with personal responsibility.

The National Academy of Social Insurance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to promote understanding and informed policymaking on social insurance and related programs through research, public education, training, and the open exchange of ideas. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided the primary financial support for this project. Other funders include the TIAA-CREF Institute, the Service Employees International Union, GE Financial Assurance, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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