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House Eyes Ways to Stem Long-Term Care Costs

By Kerry Young, CQ Roll Call

March 1, 2016 -- Congress is mulling options for addressing the growing cost of providing long-term care for the elderly, including financial aid for caregivers and using insurer-run Medicare Advantage plans to coordinate care and prevent some patients from having to be transferred to nursing homes.

About $340 billion was spent on long-term care services in 2014, according to most recent estimates, with family members absorbing untold additional costs.

"Long-term care right now is often funded in a backdoor way by women and families who take time off their jobs and who cut into their salaries and overtime," Kathy Castor, D-Fla., said a House Energy and Committee Health Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. "There must be a solution for that."

The Senate in December approved by unanimous consent a bill (S 1719) from Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would create a "national family caregiving strategy." A companion measure (HR 3099) from Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., has 14 Republicans cosponsors and 32 Democratic cosponsors and would examine ways ease the financial toll on caregivers.

At the hearing, Reps. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., and Kurt Schrader, D-Oreg., pressed for action on a bill (HR 4212) that looks to the Medicare Advantage program as a path for allowing more of the nation’s elderly to delay or avoid moves into costly nursing home care.

It would create demonstration projects to see if providing in-home care and other community support such as home delivery of meals and transportation services. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, has a Senate version (S 704).

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