Here Comes the Wall


For those of us who are waiting for baby boomers to come flooding into long-term care and set the field off on burgeoning growth, two recent reports must give us pause. It just might be that when boomers are of an age to benefit from the services of assisted living and skilled care, they won’t be able to afford them.

One report, from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Hewitt Associates, showed one-third of employers either having eliminated employee benefits or planning to do so in the next three years (although this will mainly impact Generation X and Generation Next new hires). Boomers who retain some semblance of benefits are very likely, according to the survey, to find themselves paying more for them via higher cost-sharing requirements. That same survey indicated that only 12% of employers anticipated expanding benefits, casting doubt that private long-term care insurance will grow as it should.

The second study, issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), indicated growing concern that boomers aren’t saving enough for retirement and old age. The study suggests that many boomers assume that programs like Social Security and Medicare will be there to meet their anticipated needs. My personal point of view: Many boomers are skeptical about government assistance, but feel intense pressure to spend rather than save. Our economy, as constructed today, encourages this, and if boomers want decent houses, cars, and college educations for their kids (not to mention support for their aging parents and, yes, continued good benefits), it demands that they spend big bucks.

Without going into all the political controversy surrounding government program viability versus tax cuts, the warning is loud and clear: This much-anticipated group of high-living, demanding consumers might in fact turn out to be one of the poorest older generations in recent memory.

This severely discomfiting thought should be sufficient to focus everyone’s attention-most particularly on this year’s presidential and congressional elections. The officials we elect this year will have a very large say in whether decent long-term care will be affordable to the boomers. Let’s look at the candidates, both Republican and Democrat, and ask: Who is most likely to come up with, support, and pass a creative solution, one that is not too burdensome in terms of taxes and private expenditures? And if the candidates aren’t talking about this in any serious way, let’s demand that they do. NH

To comment on the editorial, please send e-mail to peck0204@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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