What They’re Saying

Providing long term care to America’s elderly is a growing challenge as the baby boom generation ages, and President Clinton’s tax credit proposal could be a start toward solving the problem, said Dwight Bartlett, senior health fellow of the American Academy of Actuaries (Washington). The president has proposed a $1,000 tax credit for aged, ailing, or disabled Americans and the families who take care of them. "The tax credit could help ease the burden on caretakers," Bartlett said. "However, many experts believe that a comprehensive solution will involve improving access to long term care insurance." Bartlett noted that the American Academy of Actuaries is prepared to help if elected officials decide to go beyond the tax credit proposal to improve access to long term care insurance. The academy’s newly released monograph, Long-Term Care, examines actuarial issues in designing public-private insurance programs, including the use of tax incentives that in effect reduce the cost of coverage to individuals. The monograph is available at the academy web site, www.actuary.org.

A recent editorial published in The Salt Lake Tribune says President Clinton’s recent long term care proposal doesn’t go nearly far enough. The editorial stated that politicians have shyed away from the topic because the economic value of services provided by family members for free is close to $200 billion a year, which is double the nearly $100 billion the government presently spends annually on nursing homes and home healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid. "The last thing politicians want to do is to substitute paid government services for the services caregivers currently provide." But the editorial stated that supporting caregivers is another thing altogether; sensible, far less costly and politically almost sure to win substantial support from both republicans and democrats.