Mason Professor’s Long-Term Care Financing Plan Is the Model for New Virginia Initiative

Posted: October 1, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Resident in nursing home with nurse
Statistics show that on average, a person age 65 today will need some kind of long-term care services for three years.

By Catherine Probst Ferraro

Most of us do not like to think about getting old. It’s especially scary to think that we may not be able to live independently one day. The truth is that at least 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need long-term assistance at some point in their lives and most of them have not planned ahead for this type of care or considered its tremendous costs.

However, Mark Meiners, professor of health administration and policy in the College of Health and Human Services, has been thinking about and planning for long-term care for a long time – more than 25 years, in fact.

Meiners is considered the originator of a model for long-term care payment, a project he has been working on for most of his career. He saw the model come to fruition when the program began operating as a pilot in Connecticut, Indiana, California and New York in 1993. Meiners provided research and technical assistance for the development of those programs.

Virginia Adopts Financing Model

Now he’s seen the model implemented in his home state. To encourage Virginians to plan for their futures, Gov. Timothy Kaine announced last week that Virginia has launched the Own Your Future campaign and Long-Term Care Partnership program. The goal of the long-term care program is to help maximize the independence and functioning of individuals at a time when they are unable to be fully independent.

Mark Meiners
Mark Meiners

Virginia’s program grew out of the Long-Term Care Partnership Expansion project, initiated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered by the Center for Health Care Strategies, a nonprofit organization focused on quality and cost issues surrounding publicly financed health care. Meiners is part of this team of organizations dedicated to helping more states develop a new public-private approach to long-term health care insurance. The project has provided 10 states seed grants of $50,000 and technical assistance to help them develop a partnership long-term care program.

Participating states were required to submit an application and went through a competitive process based on the readiness of the state to support the program.

“I am very pleased to see that Virginia is one of the first states to implement their Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership program, and the Own Your Future campaign is a great resource to get the word out about planning for long-term care,” says Meiners. “I expect Virginia will be a model for many other states.”

Meiners believes that Virginia has gone farther faster in implementing its partnership care program because Kaine and his predecessor, Mark Warner, have made it a priority to encourage Virginians to think about planning today for retirement.

Nine Million Americans Need Long-Term Care

The Own Your Future campaign, sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, encourages individuals to plan for long-term needs now instead of waiting until a crisis occurs in the future. Most people believe they can rely on Medicare to pay for any long-term care services they will need. However, they can find themselves with high medical bills because Medicare generally doesn’t pay for long-term care.

Long-term care includes a variety of services and support to meet health care or personal care needs over an extended period of time. Most long-term care typically includes help performing everyday “activities of daily living” (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing and eating.

Most individuals who require long-term care suffer from a chronic illness or disability that causes them to need assistance with ADLs. This year, approximately 9 million Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care services. By 2020, this number will increase to 12 million. Although most people who need long-term care are age 65 or older, a person can need long-term care services at any age. In fact, 40 percent of people currently receiving long-term care are adults 18 to 64 years old.

Although not everyone over the age of 65 will require long-term care, understanding what increases the risk of needing long-term care assistance can help in planning for the future. Age is one factor, of course, that increases the likelihood of needing long-term care. Single people are also more likely to need care. A person’s lifestyle and health and family history also impact the risk.

It’s difficult to predict how much or what type of care any one person might need, but on average, today a person age 65 will need some kind of long-term care services for three years. On average, women need care for approximately 3.7 years while men need care for about 2.2 years. While about one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care services, 20 percent of them will need care for more than five years.

For more information about Virginia’s long-term care partnership, visit valtcpartnership.org.

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