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America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors

(COMMON DREAMS) Sarah Anderson, June 4, 2019

By 2035, seniors are projected to outnumber children in the U.S. population.

Maybe then we’ll look back and credit Washington state activists for being on the forefront of tackling America’s elder care crisis. On May 13, the state became the first in the nation to adopt a social insurance program for long-term care benefits.

“This is a huge victory for organizing and people power, for care and caregiving, and for older adults and people with disabilities,” said Josephine Kalipeni of Caring Across Generations, one of more than 20 groups that formed Washingtonians for a Responsible Future to push the path-breaking legislation.

Nationally, our long-term care financing system is broken. Medicare doesn’t currently cover home care or nursing facility care, while Medicaid coverage varies widely by state. To qualify, you have to meet poverty criteria, which requires people to spend down nearly all of their savings before getting coverage.

“Nationally, our long-term care financing system is broken. Medicare doesn’t currently cover home care or nursing facility care, while Medicaid coverage varies widely by state.”

So what do people do?

For the richest 1 percent, there’s a growing marketfor luxury care communities. Vi Living, for example, has 10 facilities across the country that feature 24-hour valets, gourmet meals, indoor pools, and other amenities. At their Palo Alto development in California, entrance fees run as high as $6.5 million.

Most families obviously can’t afford that. Even typical out of pocket costs for professional home care, which run about $46,000 per year, are often out of reach. Many people who need care end up relying on family members, primarily women.

In fact, an estimated 60 percent of unpaid caregivers in the United States are women, and they pay much higher economic costs for taking on this role than men. More than a quarter of women caregivers who work are forced to shift to less demanding positions, or else give up their jobs entirely.

Source: Common Dreams