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Finding common ground on long term care funding

In the midst of presidential and Congressional elections this fall, it’s more important than ever for lawmakers in Washington to remember the pressing issues related to how Americans will pay for long term care.  Our country is currently facing a long term care crisis – 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and the majority of that population will need some type of long term services and supports during their lifetime.

Unfortunately, many Americans do not have the financial resources to fund their long term care needs. According to Genworth’s 2016 Cost of Care Survey, the annual national median cost of a private room in a nursing home is $92,379. Compare that to statistics from the Economic Policy Institute that show nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all, and it’s clear we have a big problem.

{mosads}Despite this looming crisis, only eight percent of Americans currently have a long term care insurance policy. Those without insurance are often forced to turn to family caregivers or deplete their savings until they are eligible for Medicaid. The SCAN Foundation reports that $725 billion is spent annually on long term care in the United States, with $450 billion allotted to unpaid family caregiving. Additionally, the U.S. government, through Medicaid, spends more than $11 billion dollars each year on long term care services. Addressing a challenge of this volume is never easy, but doing nothing is simply not an option.

As I’ve said many times, there is no silver bullet to solving this long term care crisis; however, there are numerous proposals on the table with one goal in mind – to reduce the financial and emotional burden on Americans and their families. Today, Genworth convenes a forum on Capitol Hill to facilitate a discussion among organizations that include AARP, Bipartisan Policy Center, Urban Institute, LeadingAge, The SCAN Foundation, and Aging 2.0 to discuss various ideas to make long term care supports and services more affordable and accessible for those who will need it most. This not only includes discussion of financing proposals, but also an in-depth look at how innovative technologies can help in the delivery of care. Home health monitoring, wearable devices and personal emergency response systems are just a few examples of products that are transforming the way Americans age.

Just as innovation in aging technologies is helping people as they grow older, innovations are also taking place in the long term care insurance marketplace. Genworth first started providing long term care insurance in the 1980s, and at the time, we only covered claims for skilled nursing facilities. Now, 35 years later, we cover care in a variety of settings – home, adult day services, home modifications and more – all thanks to the opportunity to innovate.

The industry must continue this pattern of innovation to develop simpler, more affordable insurance products to help a larger portion of the population protect themselves against the financial risk of long term care.  One way to stimulate innovation is to encourage more insurance carriers to enter the market. Just like any other field, increased competition provides motivation for participants to create and innovate. Though the current regulatory framework has its limitations on what kinds of products insurers can develop and market, we recently launched two solutions to assist families with the funding of long term care needs:  ElementSM, a simpler, more affordable way to purchase long term care insurance, and IncomeAssurance, an immediate need annuity designed to provide a lifetime stream of monthly income payments for older Americans in declining health who haven’t planned ahead for long term care and need care now.  The payments can be used for any purpose, including paying for unplanned medical issues or care during retirement.

Positive change within the long term care insurance marketplace is necessary so that long term care planning becomes a routine aspect of every worker’s retirement strategy. This change will only happen if federal policymakers, state insurance regulators and other key stakeholders come together to focus on what can work. At Genworth, we firmly believe that private insurance can do more – but it has to be more accessible and affordable. Americans and their families deserve access to simple and reliable long term care insurance, and it’s our collective responsibility to make it happen.

Tom McInerney is CEO and President of Genworth Financial.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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