Monday, December 3, 2012

On being a job creator

I had an epiphany today. When we fail to prepare for the end of life crisis, which it surely is, we hurt not just ourselves, but others as well.

I had a conversation with one of my mother's former caregivers today. I would like to bring her back on, but there are costs that I would have to bear if I did so.  In spite of the costs to us, I'll still try my best to make something happen but as I was thinking that thought, it occurred to me that my situation - an inability to find the resources to pay her - multiplied by millions of families across the land, equals a real crisis for caregivers. When we (families) don't put the necessaries in place well in advance, we do real damage to ourselves, our families and as it turns out, the families of complete strangers who would otherwise have been employed had we done the needful.

I know, I know, other people's problems are not your business but perhaps we need to look at it this way: by doing the needful and (i) buying long term care insurance if you can find it and (ii) squirreling away resources for care needs, you will be able to serve both your family's needs and the needs of a caregiver's family. You will have done your part to help the economy and that certainly appeals to me.

When the Affordable Care Act was being developed, embedded in it was the Class Act. Community Living Assistance Service and Supports (CLASS) supported the creation of a national, voluntary insurance program that would provide non-skilled personal care, such as help with everyday tasks, called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Individuals were to be encouraged to buy in to the program - it was to be voluntary after all - but once enrolled, individuals would then be eligible for services should they later need them. Unfortunately, the CLASS Act failed a number of financial reviews. The number crunchers simply could not find a route to making the provision financially viable. In my humble opinion, the provision quite simply sought to be too generous. Efforts were being made to include not just people who might at some point need the long term care services, but also people already using services. While this would have helped relieve some of the pain being experienced by families already 'in the pass', this provision would have put enormous pressure on the resources appropriated for the program. The addition of the active use population threw the numbers entirely off and there was no way to make the program work. Even if it had become possible to get more than a 3% uptake rate of the policy (the approximate rate of uptake of private insurance), I am not sure that it would ever have been possible to make this program run at anything other than a significant deficit. I'm no math whiz, but that's my common sense thinking on the matter.

After much hand wringing and anguish (I'm guessing), the CLASS act was suspended, leaving us all to find long term care insurance on the open market if you can find it, as a number of companies that have been providing this coverage, are no longer taking new registrants. So the problem really is still without a solution. We still need to prepare and our options for doing so are becoming fewer and fewer.

So here's today's recommendation: if you can find a long term care policy, buy it. It is well worth it. It fills a hole that some of us realize too late, that needs filling. My mother has coverage, and though it is not enough to cover the full costs of her care (hence my role as unpaid caregiver), it most assuredly is better than the other option: having nothing at all and trying to cover these costs out of earnings or savings. Neither will ever be enough. Trust me on that.

Perhaps the CLASS Act will be revived, but if it isn't, each of us needs a Plan B. Further, if you do have an LTC plan, you will find that you are helping not only yourself but also the family/ies of the caregiver/s who will support you in your journey. I take my role as a job creator very seriously. You should too. Just imagine if more of us in the pass had been properly prepared for it and could pay for the care we need. My guess is that there would be quite a few more employed caregivers and more families making it through these difficult times with the help and support they need.

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