Rep. Suozzi introduces bill to help elderly Americans finance long-term care

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U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi (D-NY) recently introduced legislation designed to help elderly Americans and their families finance long-term care.

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The Well-Being Insurance for Seniors to be at Home (WISH) Act would create a public-private partnership to provide long-term care insurance for older Americans, so they can choose to age at home instead of needing to enter nursing homes.

Specifically, it would establish a new federal Long-Term Care Insurance Trust Fund that would pay for the “catastrophic” period of long-term care for those who need many years of it. In addition, it would enable private insurance companies to offer affordable coverage plans for elderly Americans’ initial years of potential disability. Also, it would be fully paid for by social insurance contributions made by workers and their employers — each would make a contribution equal to 0.3 percent of wages.

“We have a storm coming, with the number of disabled elders expected to double in the coming years. Fewer family caregivers are available for these aging Americans, and the market for long-term care insurance is not currently sufficient to address these demographic challenges,” Suozzi said. “The WISH Act would save the Medicaid program and millions of Americans from financial ruin would allow people to age at home with dignity, and would create millions of good-paying, middle-class jobs in the home health care industry.”

The storm that Suozzi refers to relates to the fact that by 2050, the population over 65 will almost double, and the population over 85 will triple. At the same time, it is harder for most families to care for aging Americans because families are smaller and more spread out than they used to be. The demographic challenges are exacerbated by the fact that the United States has not prioritized long-term care. Medicare does not cover it, Suozzi said. It only covers nursing home care for elderly Americans who have become impoverished.

“The WISH Act takes an important step forward toward ensuring that long-term care and services do not impoverish families. Mr. Suozzi wisely devised a public-private partnership that generates funding for federal catastrophic long-term care coverage. The result is a much-needed, public-private partnership and an important step toward more equitable access to long-term services and supports for all,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said.

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