Divided commission punts on long-term care finance

Why can’t we all just get along when it comes to long-term care?

Long-term care services support the medical and non-medical needs of people with chronic illnesses. Coverage is hardly restricted to older people, but demand for long-term care services will explode as the baby boom generation ages.

The U.S. Congress upset the left when it stripped the public option for long-term care insurance out of Obamacare in last January’s fiscal cliff deal. The compromise was creation of a commission charged with developing a comprehensive blueprint for financing long-term care services. But the divided Commission on Long-Term Care punted the ball. Unable to agree on a financial vision, its final report offered up two options that reflect the commissioners’ ideological differences.

Left-leaning members issued a dissenting report Monday proposing expansion of Medicare to cover long-term care (LTC). The right prefers tax incentives and regulatory reforms aimed at stimulating wider use of private LTC insurance policies.

Financing aside, the commissioners did reach consensus on some good ideas. For example, they recommend eliminating the three-day hospital stay requirement that makes patients eligible for Medicare’s current 100 days of skilled nursing care benefits (per illness). The commissioners also want better support and information to people who are providing care to family members, an area of fertile ground since family members most often are the primary providers of care, for now.

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