Friday, January 30, 2009

Healthcare Reform is Coming...Soon.

The public wants health reform, and wants it now according to a survey conducted by researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In terms of what Americans think should be in the economic stimulus package, newly affordable health insurance coverage comes in second, only behind helping businesses help or create jobs.

We have already seen small strides toward health care reform in the quickly moving SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) legislation and the allocation of funds in the stimulus package for extended unemployment insurance and other health related issues. Healthcare reform was a huge part of President Obama’s campaign promises and seems to have taken a back seat to the stimulus package. But, if you look carefully, the House and draft Senate versions of the stimulus package have hints of healthcare reform sprinkled throughout that may be a teaser of what’s to come.

Today I attended the National Academy of Social Insurance Roundtable “Preparing the Path to Long-Term Care Reform” which discussed long-term care advocacy and the lack of its mention in the new stimulus package. There is mention of additional funding for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), but discussion arose as to just how likely that funding is to assist elders directly.

One general consensus is that, if adequately allocated, funding toward WIA will open doors to address long-term care since there are portions of the House version that specifically mention training programs for healthcare employees.

For elders, healthcare reform could help lower costs which is a positive considering its currently the first or second highest out-of-pocket expense for single elders, according to Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index available in Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin. In some states, when housing costs are low, health care can amount to the largest expense for elder couples.

It will be interesting to see what the new administration does in regards to healthcare, given their campaign promise of reform. Specifically, we must wait and see if they address the issue of long-term care and sufficiently address elders’ needs, not to mention those of the geriatric workforce, in whatever changes are proposed.

What’s most important, though, is that elders can afford medical expenses to remain independent.

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