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Bipartisan Think Tank to Examine Long-Term Care Issues

The Bipartisan Policy Center last week launched a new initiative to find a politically and fiscally viable way to improve the financing and delivery of long-term care.

The new Long-Term Care Initiative is led by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, former White House and Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.

“Nearly 70% of Americans who reach age 65 will, at some point, be unable to care for themselves without assistance,” said Daschle, who added that issues of long-term care also affect missions of younger Americans with cognitive or physical limitations

Frist noted that the number of Americans estimated to need long-term services and supports is expected to double to about 27 million by 2050. “Today’s 65-year-old Baby Boomers are relatively healthy but will have problems in 20 years,” he said, adding that solving the issue can be challenging as there are also fewer family caregivers today, insufficient household savings and strained state and federal budgets.

Thompson said as a former governor and HHS secretary “I’ve had the opportunity to look at this problem in many different ways. People don’t realize that states really are going to be left holding the financial problem and trying to find the solutions. One-third of the Medicaid budget…is what’s required to take care of the long-term care problem.”

The new initiative over the next eight months plans to look at a variety of issues, including the structure of the private insurance market especially focusing on long-term care insurance.  Daschle said in seeking solutions the initiative would be “drawing upon the excellent work of the Long-Term Care Commission” and looking to others involved in public policy and elsewhere.

“We recognize that policy solutions are not going to be easy” and will include a variety of approaches including legislative and regulatory change, he said.

Rivlin, who said she lives in a senior village, noted that she wrote a book in 1988 about who will pay for long-term care and to this day “we haven’t come closer to solving the problem. …The question is at the intersection of family and private responsibility and public responsibility.”

In a later panel, Anne Tumlinson with Avalere advised listeners to expand their minds “if you think long-term care is about a little old lady,” adding that it’s really an issue for families and beyond.

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