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Senate ponders long-term care - America holds its breath

Seldom has so much hung in the balance as the Senate turns its attention to creating its own version of the American Health Care Act, passed last week by a two-vote margin. 

Among the most concerned constituencies are the families of the elderly and disabled who have planned their entire financial future based on existing law.

The proposed law includes a provision to eliminate more than $800 billion from Medicaid. Perhaps this responsibility will be passed down to the states. This will put an enormous burden on states like Massachusetts. Some states will not accept this responsibility.

Families that have never been politically active are now urging representatives to protect those we care for and who have not included this upheaval in their financial plans.

What will be the final outcome? That is up to the Senate, which is more sensitive to the needs of their entire states than the House, which is only accountable to their own districts.

The Affordable Care Act, which is still in place until it is replaced, had its own problems with long-term care. It originally sought to create a voluntary new system of long term insurance, through the CLASS Act. This concept, however, was eventually determined to be a nonstarter, and it was set aside. As so often happens, the problem was kicked down the road.

Americans are right to be concerned about changes to Medicaid and long term care. Actuaries forecast that over two-thirds of the elderly population will rely on governmental long-term care insurance assistance.

The demographics of the Baby Boom clearly show that the need for care insurance is increasing every day. The average cost of nursing home care in Massachusetts is currently $353 per day -- over $128,000.00 per year. It is easy to see how a family's resources can be quickly depleted.

Congress's version of the bill does not significantly address long-term care issues. It is a good time to remind our representatives how important Medicaid is for most families seeking a way to finance decent care for our loved ones.

How will this struggle resolve? The Senate has let us know it will not rush to fashion a new bill, as the House has been accused of doing.

Our advice to families is to talk to their Senators, and let them know of the importance not just of caring for our seniors today, but of ensuring that the care of one generation does not impoverish generations that follow.

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