Policy Initiatives:

Long-Term Care: The Solution

Long-Term Care: The Solution

Long-Term Care: The Solution

LTC can be fully financed and vastly improved

without undue pressure on families.

Executive Summary

What This Paper Covers

How to pay for aging Americans’ long-term care (LTC) is a difficult policy problem. This paper follows “Long-Term Care: The Problem,” in which I explained how well-intended government policy caused many of LTC’s problems. Too many people end up on Medicaid, which pays too little to ensure access to quality home care and causes excessive reliance on institutionalization and unpaid help from families and friends. In this paper, I propose reforms to reduce dependence on Medicaid and free up private financing to fix the LTC challenges.

What We Found

When people encounter high LTC costs later in life, they typically qualify more easily for Medicaid than commonly thought. This moral hazard discourages early LTC planning. The past policy approach of generous Medicaid LTC eligibility with estate recovery after death did not adequately promote proper planning, either through savings or insurance. Most Americans possess enough wealth to fund their average LTC needs, which is about two years of homebased services. If the average 65-year-old had $70,000 set aside for LTC, it would grow to meet that need after age 85, when LTC commonly occurs. Positive incentives to plan early and pay privately avoid the loss of freedom and high economic cost from compulsory, payroll-funded policies.

Why It Matters

With the aging of the baby boomers and an increasing percentage of the population living past 85, creating a sustainable LTC policy is crucial. If Medicaid did not pay for expensive LTC after care is needed, more consumers would prepare privately and avoid Medicaid dependency. Unless policy is changed and the incentive to avoid proper LTC planning is removed, the LTC system will fail, harming those who most need public support.

Policy Suggestions

Medicaid LTC should be restored as a safety net for indigent elderly people. Lawmakers should eliminate the ability to access publicly funded LTC while preserving wealth. This paper details seven options to empower younger and middle-age Americans to meet a new, publicized individual LTC planning responsibility. This would unleash wealth currently unused for LTC that remains locked in home equity, individual retirement accounts, life insurance, and estates and reorient the LTC system to cater to seniors’ desires to age in their homes rather than in institutions.

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