Paying for long-term care has assumed a new urgency among policymakers and politicians as increasing numbers of people exhaust their resources and turn to publicly funded services for care.
In early January 2013, President Obama signed “The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” as a way to avoid the economic impact of the federal budgetary “fiscal cliff.” The legislation also repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, better known as the CLASS Act. This was a signature legislation of the late Senator Kennedy who advocated the need for a national, voluntary long-term care (LTC) system. The repeal was no surprise; opponents made several attempts to repeal it, and, in October 2011, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that the CLASS Act was financially unsustainable as written.
In its place, a new 15-member Commission has been created to make recommendations to Congress about how to develop “a plan for the establishment, implementation and financing of a comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality system that ensures the availability of long-term services and supports for individuals in need of such services and supports… and individuals desiring to plan for future long-term care needs.” This is a tall order.
By early April, all 15 members had been appointed to the Commission. The House Speaker and Minority Leader, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the President each appointed 3 members to the Commission. The Commission has only 6 months to develop recommendations for this all-encompassing topic of financing LTC services and supports. An estimated 12 million people nationally need LTC due to a physical impairment, and the number increases if we include those needing care due to mental illness or cognitive impairment. The need for LTC also increases with age, as the majority of LTC users are 65 years or older. With 10,000 people currently enrolling in Medicare each day, and with people over 85 years of age being one of the fastest growing age groups in the country, our nation must have a plan to address the care needs and quality of life issues facing our growing elderly population.
As of this writing, no meetings for the LTC Commission have been held, no staff has been appointed and no funds have been allocated. We wish the Commission the best of luck in facing this challenging task and eagerly and anxiously wait to see their final recommendations.