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 New All-Star Cast Assembles To Focus On Long Term Care Crisis

​Former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist will join former Cabinet officials Tommy Thompson and Alice Rivlin in an effort to get the nation’s lawmakers and policymakers focused on what they’re calling a looming long term care crisis.

The four, all members of a nonprofit group calling itself the Bipartisan Policy Center, say they want to “build consensus on how to finance and deliver long term care” ahead of the silver tsunami.

In a report issued Tuesday, the quartet say they know that “it is extremely unlikely that a single solution will adequately address” the crisis of an aging population. They hope to come up with some answers that “weave together the approaches of publicly funded programs, such as Medicaid, with private insurance products to control costs, while also improving the efficiency and quality” of the long term care system.

They’re particularly interested in the work already done by the Long Term Care Commission, which wrapped up its work last year.

Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, and Frist, a Tennessee Republican and a surgeon by background, each served terms as Senate majority leader. Thompson was the governor of Wisconsin and served as Health and Human Services secretary under George W. Bush. Rivlin was the first director of the Congressional Budget Office and was Bill Clinton’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Their efforts come "at a critical time," says Len Russ, principal partner in Bayberry Health Care and chairman of the board of the American Health Care Association.

"Now is the time to study existing Managed Long Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) models and correct their flaws," Russ says. "This will take a conscious effort to place the needs of the elderly at the forefront, by ensuring patients' access, improving care quality, enhancing patient choice and ensuring adequate payment to providers in a managed care environment."

Tuesday’s 32-page report is light on prescriptions, but heavy on diagnosis. The authors estimate that long term care currently costs the public $100 million, and another $450 in unpaid caring duties. This won’t get better as America ages, Tuesday’s report says.

“In the next two decades, an aging population; fewer family caregivers; increasingly limited personal financial resources; and growing strains on federal, state, and family budgets will create an unsustainable demand,” the report says.

Governments are strapped for cash, and the “partisanship in Congress” makes consensus difficult, the report’s authors say, but “it is important that policymakers begin to lay the groundwork for action before millions of baby boomers begin to need assistance.”

“Failure to do so will undoubtedly overwhelm the existing structure, which requires those in need of [long term care] to rely on individual family resources, family caregivers, and, once private resources are exhausted, the Medicaid program,” Tuesday’s report adds. “As such, the looming financing implications for the Medicaid program—and the need for Democrats and Republicans to come together to enact solutions—cannot be overstated.”

Bill Myers is Provider’s senior editor. He can be reached via email at wmyers@providermagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.

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