Let's look for ways to fix our existing problems


February 15, 2018

To The Eagle:

We all want to do what’s best for our families, but most of us are doing almost nothing to face a huge threat to our elders’ health and welfare.

Even those of us who have carefully planned for our other major life events get caught off guard because we don’t realize an important reality until it’s too late: Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care for most of us.

As the director of an agency that serves aging Southwest Washingtonians, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult these needs can be for families to manage. Most of us simply don’t have any way to pay the $260,000 per person lifetime average cost.

Some people buy private insurance for long-term care, but by the time most of us get around to it, it can be extremely expensive and difficult to get. That’s why more than 90 percent of us don’t have this coverage.

Some seniors can qualify for Medicaid to pay for long-term care, but those benefits are available only after they’ve spent away all their assets — life savings that many had hoped to pass along to their children and grandchildren.

On top of that, as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the costs of long-term care to both the federal and state governments continue to strain the system: Washington state alone spends $2.1 billion annually on Medicaid-funded long-term service and supports. This spending is projected to increase by 91 percent in 2040.

These are reasons why I am in favor of the Long-Term Care Trust Act now being considered by the Legislature: this Act would be an excellent “kick start” to have each of us consider and act on our long term care needs. It would set up a small payroll deduction similar to unemployment that would provide a benefit to cover a basic level of long-term care services.

For less than half of one percent of your pay, you’d be eligible for 365 days of benefits of up to $100 a day.

This program would reduce the burden on both our own family budgets and our government budgets, and it’s an excellent start, but each of us needs to do our own planning ahead for our own lives, and we all need to keep looking for additional ways to fix our existing systems and supports to ensure that we’re not just kicking the problem forward, generation after generation.

David Kelly

Executive Director for the Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities of Southwest Washington



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