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Public weighs in on long-term care funding options

October 4, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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How should long-term care for U.S. senior citizens be paid for? Participants in a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll (PDF) have some ideas.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that “most people" should buy long-term care insurance, although current statistics show that less than eight percent of U.S. adults have bought such coverage, says Howard Gleckman, a resident fellow of the Urban Institute.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they support the notion of tax breaks that would help people purchase the insurance, and the idea had backing by similar numbers of those identifying themselves as Republicans or Democrats. In fact, Gleckman says, respondents showed a surprising amount of agreement on some financing ideas. More than two-thirds of survey participants, including half of those identifying themselves as Republicans, said they favor a “new government program” to help.

Paying for long-term care services in an era of aging Baby Boomers “is a huge and growing problem,” Gleckman says. The current number of Americans who need long-term care is expected to double to about 24 million within the next 20 years, he adds. That’s more than two-thirds of those aged at least 65 years.

Even the federal Commission on Long-Term Care couldn’t reach a consensus on how to finance the delivery of long-term care before recently issuing other recommendations, Gleckman says. A solution, he adds, could involve a combination of public and private funding sources. One possibility, Gleckman says, is a program wherein private insurers would sell long-term care coverage “under the auspices” of the Medicare program—similar to the current “Medigap” system in which older adults can obtain supplemental private insurance for services not covered by Medicare.

For the poll, 2,013 adults were surveyed online between Sept. 10 and Sept. 12.

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