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Opinion by Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. as published in Long Island Business News
U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) introduced federal legislation last week that provides for the creation of a federal long-term care insurance trust fund to help pay for our aging population’s long term health care needs at home. This is smart policy whose time has come but it needs to include nursing home and assisted living coverage as well.
Most people cannot afford to foot the bill themselves for home care, assisted living, or nursing home care, which can easily cost a minimum of $8,000, $10,000 and $15,000 respectively per month. No one wants to wipe out their life savings on the cost of their care and certainly no one wants to be a burden on their kids. But state and federal governments can’t afford it either and look to cut programs like Medicaid in every budget cycle. Further, what’s going to happen when Baby Boomers start filling up the nursing homes and seeking the assistance of home health aides? There’s already a shortage of home health aides and staffing issues in nursing homes.
Suozzi’s legislation, the Well-Being Insurance for Seniors to Be at Home (WISH) Act, proposes to off-set these costs with a federal trust fund created through a payroll deduction of 0.3% of worker wages in a social insurance tax. Businesses and employers would be responsible for collecting this tax on pre-tax wages.
Washington State was the first state in the nation to roll out such a program. Their state-wide program was launched in 2019 with payroll deductions of 0.58% of worker wages to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Benefits will be available to residents of the state of Washington beginning on Jan. 1, 2025, to allow for the program to be funded. Maine, California and Hawaii are considering following suit. If Suozzi’s federal legislation makes headway, it will obviate the need for one-off state programs. The challenge, however, will be pricing; for example, Washington State’s benefit is $100/day with a lifetime maximum limit of $36,500. In New York, Alaska and Hawaii, that lifetime limit is a drop in the bucket. To be a meaningful benefit, states will need the ability to set their daily benefit, lifetime limit and corresponding payroll deduction.
Assisting older adults every day who seek to preserve their assets from the astronomical costs of long-term healthcare and who wish to keep their options open as to where they will receive care as they age, I commend Rep. Suozzi for bringing forward this progressive and on-point federal legislation. If you have navigated the elder care system on behalf of a parent or grandparent, you know how important it is. And you’re next.