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Is private insurance the solution to long term care financing problems?
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Apr. 17, 2001 -- A Senate Finance Committee hearing March 27 looking at "The Affordability of Long-Term Care" looked primarily at private insurance as the solution to the high cost of nursing homes and "home health" services. No speakers from the disability rights movement addressed the hearing.

Statements of Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R. IA) and witnesses can be found online at

The General Accounting Office's William J. Scanlon told the Committee that "an estimated 9 million persons age 18 or older receive long-term care assistance, either at home or in institutions such as nursing homes. While family members provide much care, paying for purchased services presents a significant financial burden for many individuals and for public health care programs.

"For those needing nursing home or other extensive continuous care, the costs can be substantial. On average, nursing home care currently costs $55,000 annually, with many nursing home residents paying much of that out of their own pockets," said Scanlon.

"Providing and financing long-term care will become even more challenging in just over a decade when the 76 million baby boomers begin to turn 65. Over the next 30 years, the number of elderly individuals is expected to double. Moreover, with baby boomers expected to live longer and greater numbers reaching age 85 and older, this generation is expected to have a dramatic effect on the number of people needing long-term care services, as the prevalence of disabilities and dependencies increases with age."

Scanlon's statement includes statistics about costs for long-term care and an overview of current long-term-care programs that would be useful for disability advocates. His statement, with tables and charts, can be downloaded (in PDF format only) from the website

The solution suggested by Scanlon and other witnesses is "private long-term care insurance." Suggestions for removing the institutional bias in long-term care were not part of this hearing.

Witnesses who addressed the committee included, besides Scanlon, staff from the Social Policy Division of the Congressional Research Service; a vice-president of The Lewin Group, which does research on aging policy; Steven Lutzky of the Office on Disabilities and Aging in the Washington, D.C. Department of Health and Gail Gibson Hunt, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Caregiving. You may download their statements online at the website listed above.

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