Long-term care clock ticking for Congressional commission

Eighty-four days and counting. That’s the time remaining that a new Congressional commission has to come up with solutions for one of the country’s most vexing problems: how to properly fund long-term care.

The Commission on Long-Term Care is an offspring of the January deal that averted the so-called fiscal cliff mix of tax hikes and spending cuts. Back then, Congress and the White House agreed to kill the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS), which would have provided a public option for long-term care insurance under Obamacare. The consensus is that the math on CLASS did not work – but there is also widespread agreement that our current approach to financing long-term care is broken.

The new panel was created to recommend improvements to how we finance and deliver long-term care to an aging population. The panel is composed of 15 nonpolitical healthcare experts, with nine appointed by Democratic legislators and the White House, and six by Republican lawmakers. It is operating on a tight time frame with a limited budget, and just managed to convene its first meeting in late June.

The odds of a breakthrough are small, but the clock is ticking on the need for solutions. Long-term care services support the medical and nonmedical needs of people with chronic illnesses. It’s hardly restricted to older people, but demand for long-term care services will explode as the baby boom generation ages. Meanwhile, we currently cover care with a patchwork quilt of funding mechanisms that is full of holes.

There is a shred of good news, however: The SCAN Foundation and others have been identifying promising reform ideas for further research and debate. I discuss three of the best ones I have seen in my column today at Reuters Money.