Carper Warns of ‘Impending Crisis’ in long-Term Care, Baby Boomers May Bust Current Long-Term Care Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Tom Carper warned today of an impending crisis in the long-term care system as Baby Boomers begin aging into their sixties and beyond. Carper, himself a boomer whose mother is in long-term-care, expressed his concerns to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson at a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “I have seen first-hand the high cost of long-term care. My mother is 79-years old. Because of her battle against Alzheimer’s disease, she requires constant care to maintain any quality of life. I worry that our children will face the same problems as our generation ages,” said Carper. “The cost of long-term care will be a growing burden for our nation to bear. In the absence of reform, I question whether we can carry it.” Life expectancy continues to rise through advancements in health care, nutrition and medical technology. But these additional years come with a cost – increased health problems, disabilities, and other afflictions that can demand a person receive long-term and constant care. In 1998, four million Americans needed assistance with their daily living. By 2020, the US Census expects that number to jump to seven million. “I often say that our health care system in this country represents a patchwork quilt. Well, if our system of health insurance is a patchwork quilt, I think it’s fair to say our system of long term care is a crazy quilt,” said Carper, a member of the Aging Committee. “Most Americans believe that Medicare will cover their health care needs when they retire. Most Americans don’t know that if they end up in a nursing home, Medicare won’t cover the cost. Most Americans don’t know that the single largest payer of long-term care, Medicaid, requires that people effectively impoverish themselves in order to access public assistance.” The federal government is assuming the ever-growing cost of long-term care. Over $133 billion was spent on long-term care in this country in 1999, with Medicaid covering 43.8% of those and Medicaid supplying another 13.7%. The Congressional Budget Office expects this spending to grow to $207 billion in 2020 and $346 billion by 2040. “This hearing was an important step on the path to a national dialog on this problem,” Carper said. “We cannot avoid this problem by staying silent.” In addition to Secretary Thompson, the Committee heard testimony from Congressional Research Service expert Carol O’Shaughnessy and the Honorable David Durenberger, Chairman of Citizens for Long-Term Care.