Financing Long-Term Care: If Not Us, Then Who?

by Kathryn Roberts, Ecumen CEO

Ecumen CEO Kathryn Roberts is board chair-elect for LeadingAge, the national trade association for not-for-profit aging services organizations, focused on education, advocacy and applied research. Roberts is also the chair of LeadingAge’s Long-Term Services and Supports Task Force whose mission is to find solutions to an imminent crisis in the funding of long-term care costs for the rapidly growing number of people who are living longer with chronic diseases that require expensive specialized care. In the following post that appeared on LeadingAge’s newsletter, Roberts gives a progress report on the task force’s work, which is focused on broadening the public discussion and helping the U.S. move to a national solution.

Our country's lack of a long-term care financing plan leaves millions of Americans exposed to catastrophic costs of Alzheimer's disease, congestive heart failure, physical disability and other chronic conditions that often accompany longevity or can strike earlier in life.

This risk not only depletes people's hard-earned savings, but it keeps too many people from the supportive services they need to live fully with illness or disability.

No one knows the ramifications of this issue better than LeadingAge members.

Last week in Minneapolis, LeadingAge's Long-Term Services and Supports Task Force began Phase II of its work in moving our country toward a solution that protects us all against catastrophic care costs while allowing us to access the supportive services necessary to live with the utmost dignity and independence.

This new phase will engage the public over the next several years in community conversations and collaborations that help people understand the tremendous costs of inaction to them, their loved ones and communities, while building broad support to forge a solution. This new phase is possible because of the outstanding work preceding it.

The first step was LeadingAge's advocacy for the CLASS Act. This effort led to unprecedented Congressional action and support on this issue. Although the CLASS Act was ultimately removed from the Affordable Care Act, LeadingAge's advocacy efforts significantly raised the profile of this issue.

In 2012, LeadingAge convened a new task force to keep progress moving. Rather than forging a "final" solution, Task Force members paved multiple pathways for solving this problem.

Those pathways, which you can read about here, are the foundation for this next phase, one that will convene citizen conversations nationally and ultimately forge an effective solution for millions of Americans without one.

During our Task Force meeting last week, one question arose repeatedly: "If LeadingAge's members aren't the catalyst for moving this issue forward, then who will be?" I am thankful for LeadingAge's leadership in moving our country forward to create a better living experience for us all.

I look forward to sharing with you more about this work in the months ahead.