Category Archives: Health Care

Retiree Health Care Benefits Continue to Decline

Employer-based retirement health care insurance benefits continue to decline, according to recent industry reports.

Many retirees have been able to rely on private or state employer-based retirement health benefits for supplemental health care coverage while on Medicare in the past, but this is becoming less common.

Employer-based health-related benefits can provide important coverage for the gaps that exist in Medicare programs. Additional coverage benefits can alleviate the cost-sharing requirements and deductibles associated with Medicare. Caps on the amount that can be spent out-of-pocket, often associated with supplemental coverage, are also often helpful for retirees.

Overall, supplemental retiree health and medical benefits sponsored by a private or municipal employer have helped many retirees cope with high medical costs often incurred in retirement.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported, however, that the number of large private employers-considered employers with 200 or more employees-offering retiree healthcare benefits has dropped from 66 percent in 1988 to 23 percent in 2015.

Companies that do continue to offer retiree health benefits have been making changes aimed at reducing the cost of benefits, including:

Instituting caps on the amount of the provider’s financial liability
Shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution plans
Offering retiree health care benefits through Medicare Advantage plan contracts
Creating benefit programs through private health insurance exchanges

State employers have also not been immune to the trend, but the type and level of coverage being offered by most states is significantly different than retirement health care coverage being offered by large companies.

Unlike many private employers, state governments continue to offer some level of retiree health care benefits to help attract and retain talented workers, according to a report titled “State Retiree Health Plan Spending,” published by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in May, 2016.

With the exception of Idaho, all states currently offer newly-hired state employees some level of retirement health care benefits as part of their benefits package, according to the report. Of the states offering retiree medical benefits, 38 have made the commitment to contribute to health care premiums for the coverage being offered. State employers are, however, also making changes to the retirement health care insurance benefits they provide to state workers.

Significant among these changes for the states is at least one driving force-the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) now requires states to report liabilities for retirement benefits other than pensions in their financial statements. The changes were required from all states by the end of 2008. As a result, the increased financial transparency forced states to review the cost of their other post-employment benefits (OPEB) and address how they plan to pay for them.

Because retirement health care benefits account for the majority of the states’ OPEB obligations, many states have made policy changes to address the upcoming obligations. Factors such as date of hire, date of retirement or vesting eligibility, including minimum age and minimum service year requirements, are now being used by states to vary or limit retirement health care benefits.

Overall, from 2010 to 2013, the states saw their OPEB liabilities decrease by 10 percent from $627 billion after inflation adjustments. While this may sound contradictory, the declines are attributed to a slowdown in the growth of health care costs coupled with benefit modifications aimed at cost reductions.

To look at one state as an example, California’s recent budget revealed that health care benefits for retirees are costing the state more than $2 billion a year for an 80 percent increase over the prior 10 years. Although the situation recently changed, California was previously one of 18 states that had nothing set aside to cover its future retiree health care benefit costs of $80.3 billion.

It should be noted that retiree health care plans are typically funded by plan sponsors on a “pay as you go” basis, meaning that monies to pay current and future health care obligations are taken from current assets and not set aside in advance. This differs significantly from pension plans governed by ERISA, which are subject to funding guidelines.

In response to California’s unfunded OPEB liability, employees and the state are now paying into a fund for future retiree health care benefit costs. The state is also matching $88 million in employee contributions and paying an additional $240 million to prefund future retirement health care benefit costs. The changes are impacting retirees as well as state and private employers.

Overall, employer-based retirement health care benefits, once important for supplementing Medicare for retired seniors, continue to decline.

The Potential Impact of Eroding Employer-Based Health Care Retirement Benefits

Many baby boomers who are currently covered by retiree medical plans and plan to rely on future employer-paid medical benefits, are likely to be disappointed to learn that these benefit plans can be changed or terminated. ERISA-governed benefit plans typically contain a “reservation of rights” provision allowing the plan sponsor to change or terminate all or parts of the plan. Many private and state employers are reducing or terminating retiree health benefits due to the increasing cost of insurance premiums, rising health care costs, and increases in longevity.

Since the early 1990s there have been many cases where unexpected changes to post-employment pension and medical benefits have resulted in lawsuits. Typically, the key issue is the reservation of rights language and/or collective bargaining agreement language for employees who were covered by a union contract which referenced retiree medical benefits.

Beneficiaries who have questions about their retiree medical benefits should speak with their plan sponsor to learn about the specific benefits available to them and have a contingency plan for bridging their medical coverage to Medicare, if they are considering early retirement or want to better understand future benefits.

Making the Choice to Execute a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will

Advances in medical technology, recent court rulings and emerging political trends have brought with them a number of life-and-death choices which many have never before considered. The looming prospect of legalized physician-assisted suicide is one such choice which severely erodes the inherent value and dignity of human life. The much-publicized efforts of certain doctors to provide carbon monoxide poisoning or prescribe lethal drugs for their terminally ill patients constitute euthanasia. So may the removal of certain life-sustaining treatments from a patient who is not in a terminal condition. Euthanasia and willful suicide, in any form, are offenses against life; they must be and are rejected by the vast majority of U.S. states.

However, people faced with these difficult dilemmas should be made aware that there are morally-appropriate, life-affirming legal options available to them. One such option, for Catholics and others, can be a “health care power of attorney” and “living will.” South Carolina State law allows you to appoint someone as your agent to make health care decisions for you in the event you lose the ability to decide for yourself. This appointment is executed by means of a “health care power of attorney” form, a model for which can be obtained from your attorney.

A health care power of attorney can be a morally and legally acceptable means of protecting your wishes, values and religious beliefs when faced with a serious illness or debilitating accident. Accordingly, for persons wishing to execute health care powers of attorney, see the following instructions and guidance from the authoritative teachings and traditions of various religious faiths.

The intent of the health care power of attorney law is to allow adults to delegate their God-given, legally-recognized right to make health care decisions to a designated and trusted agent. The law does not intend to encourage or discourage any particular health care treatment. Nor does it legalize or promote euthanasia, suicide or assisted suicide. The health care power of attorney law allows you, or any competent adult, to designate an “agent,” such as a family member or close friend, to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to decide for yourself in the future. This is done by completing a health care power of attorney form.

You…

o Have the right to make all of your own health care decisions while capable of doing so. The health care power of attorney only becomes effective when and if you become incapacitated through illness or accident.

o Have the right to challenge your doctor’s determination that you are not capable of making your own medical decisions.

o CAN give special instructions about your medical treatment to your agent and can forbid your agent from making certain treatment decisions. To do so, you simply need to communicate your wishes, beliefs and instructions to your agent. Instructions about any specific treatments or procedures which you desire or do not desire under special conditions can also be written in your health care power of attorney and/or provided in a separate living will.

o Can revoke your health care power of attorney or the appointment of your agent at any time while competent.

o May not designate as your agent an administrator or employee of the hospital, nursing home or mental hygiene facility to which you are admitted, unless they are related by blood, marriage or adoption. 1996

Your agent…

o Can begin making decisions for you only when your doctor determines that you are no longer able to make health care decisions for yourself.

o May make any and all health care decisions for you, including treatments for physical or mental conditions and decisions regarding life-sustaining procedures, unless you limit the power of your agent.

o Will not have authority to make decisions about the artificial provision of nutrition and hydration (nourishment and water through feeding tubes) unless he or she clearly knows that these decisions are in accord with your wishes about those measures.

o Is protected from legal liability when acting in good faith.

o Must base his or her decisions on your wishes or, if your wishes cannot be reasonably ascertained, in your “best interests.” The agent’s decisions will take precedence over the decisions of all other persons, regardless of family relationships.

o May have his or her decision challenged if your family, health care provider or close friend believes the agent is acting in bad faith or is not acting in accord with your wishes, including your religious/moral beliefs, or is not acting in your best interests.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR ALL PEOPLE FROM CHRISTIAN/CATHOLIC TEACHING

The following is an attempt to gather information from the doctrines of Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism to see if there are any commonalities with regard to health care agencies and living wills. We will see that all three religions have placed a value on dying with dignity and the right of the person to direct how their dying process will occur.

A major tenet of the faith is that it is unethical to take a life. It is not the highest of all values to stay alive, but you cannot affirmatively take steps to kill someone. The church is strongly against euthanasia and suicide. But often if the patient and medical care providers permit nature to take its course without heroic intervention, the person’s life may be taken by God.

This is a narrow path. Taking a life is inappropriate; on the other hand, using heroic medical measures to keep a body biologically functioning would not be appropriate either. Mere biological existence is not considered a value. It is not a sin to allow someone to die peacefully and with dignity. We see death as an evil to be transformed into a victory by faith in God. The difficulty is discussing these issues in abstraction; they must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The Christian church’s view of life-and-death issues should ideally be reflected in the living will and health-care proxy.

Roman Catholic teaching celebrates life as a gift of a loving God and respects each human life because each is created in the image and likeness of God. It is consistent with Church teaching that each person has a right to make his or her own health care decisions. Further, a person’s family or trusted delegate may have to assume that responsibility for someone who has become incapable of making their decisions. Accordingly, it is morally acceptable to appoint a health care agent by executing a health care power of attorney, provided it conforms to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith.

While the health care power of attorney law allows us to designate someone to make health care decisions for us, we must bear in mind that life is a sacred trust over which we have been given stewardship. We have a duty to preserve it, while recognizing that we have no unlimited power over it. Therefore, the Catholic Church encourages us to keep the following considerations in mind if we decide to sign a health care power of attorney.

1. As Christians, we believe that our physical life is sacred but that our ultimate goal is everlasting life with God. We are called to accept death as a part of the human condition. Death need not be avoided at all costs.

2. Suffering is “a fact of human life, and has special significance for the Christian as an opportunity to share in Christ’s redemptive suffering. Nevertheless there is nothing wrong in trying to relieve someone’s suffering as long as this does not interfere with other moral and religious duties. For example, it is permissible in the case of terminal illness to use pain killers which carry the risk of shortening life, so long as the intent is to relieve pain effectively rather than to cause death.”

3. Euthanasia is “an action or omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated.” “[Euthanasia] is an attack on human life which no one has a right to make or request.”

4. “Everyone has the duty to care for his or her own health and to seek necessary medical care from others, but this does not mean that all possible remedies must be used in all circumstances. One is not obliged to use ‘extraordinary’ means – that is, means which offer no reasonable hope of benefit or which involve excessive hardship.

5. No health care agent may be authorized to deny personal services which every patient can rightfully expect, such as appropriate food, water, bed rest, room temperature and hygiene.

6. The patient’s condition, however, may affect the moral obligation of providing food and water when they are being administered artificially. Factors that must be weighed in making this judgment include: the patient’s ability to assimilate the artificially provided nutrition and hydration, the imminence of death and the risks of the procedures for the patient. While medically-administered food and water pose unique questions, especially for patients who are permanently unconscious, decisions about these measures should be guided by a presumption in favor of their use. Food and water must never be withdrawn in order to cause death. They may be withdrawn if they offer no reasonable hope of maintaining life or if they pose excessive risks or burdens.

7. Life-sustaining treatment must be maintained for a pregnant patient if continued treatment may benefit her unborn child.

Such principles and guidelines from the Christian heritage may guide Catholics and others as they strive to make responsible health care decisions and execute health care proxies. They may also guide Catholic health care facilities and providers in deciding when to accept and when to refuse to honor an agent’s decision.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR ALL PEOPLE FROM JEWISH TEACHING

Jewish tradition as understood by Conservative Judaism teaches that life is a blessing and a gift from God. Each human being is valued as created b’tselem elohim, in God’s image. Whatever the level of our physical and mental abilities, whatever the extent of our dependence on others, each person has intrinsic dignity and value in God’s eyes. Judaism values life and respects our bodies as the creation of God. We have the responsibility to care for ourselves and seek medical treatment needed for our recovery-we owe that to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to God.

In accordance with our tradition’s respect for the life God has given us and its consequent bans on murder and suicide, Judaism rejects any form of active euthanasia (“mercy killing”) or assisted suicide. Within these broad guidelines, decisions may be required about which treatment would best promote recovery and would offer the greatest benefit. Accordingly, each patient may face important choices concerning what mode of treatment he or she feels would be both beneficial and tolerable.

The breadth of the Conservative movement and its intellectual vitality have produced two differing positions put forward by Rabbis Avram Israel Reisner and Elliot N. Dorff, both approved by the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Both positions agree on the value of life and the individual’s responsibility to protect his or her life and seek healing. Both agree on a large area of autonomy in which a patient can make decisions about treatment when risk or uncertainty is involved. Both would allow terminally ill patients to rule out certain treatment options (such as those with significant side effects), to forgo mechanical life support, and to choose hospice care as a treatment option.

Nevertheless, important differences between the two positions may be found regarding both theoretical commitments and practical applications. Rabbi Reisner affirms the supreme value of protecting all life. Even the most difficult life and that of the shortest duration is yet God given, purposeful, and ours to nurture and protect. All nutrition, hydration, and medication should be provided whenever these are understood to be effective measures for sustaining life. Some medical interventions, however, do not sustain life so much as they prolong the dying process. These interventions are not required. The distinction may best be judged by our intent. We may choose to avoid treatments causing us fear or entailing risk or pain, in the interest of the remaining moments of life. We may not avoid treatment in an attempt to speed an escape into death.

Rabbi Dorff finds basis in Jewish law to grant greater latitude to the patient who wishes to reject life-sustaining measures. He sees a life under the siege of a terminal illness as an impaired life. In such a circumstance, a patient might be justified in deciding that a treatment that extends life without hope for cure would not benefit him or her, and may be forgone.

Both Rabbis Dorff and Reisner agree that advance directives should only be used to indicate preferences within the range allowed by Jewish law. They disagree as to what those acceptable ranges are. In completing a health care power of attorney and living will, it is recommended that you consult with your rabbi to discuss the values and norms of Jewish ethics and halakhah. You also may wish to talk with your physician to learn about the medical significance of your choices, in particular any decisions your physician feels are likely to be faced in light of your medical circumstances. You may find it helpful to discuss these concerns with family members.

CONCLUSION

In the end, the decision to execute a health care power of attorney and living will is a uniquely individual choice. Every person has their own set of principles by which they will live, and by which they will eventually pass on. When executing these documents, it is wise to examine how these documents assimilate into your worldview and religious beliefs. While the topic of death and dying is an uncomfortable one, you are well advised to discuss this decision with your family members, friends, and members and leaders of your religious community that you respect. Having done this, you can rest easy knowing that you have made a good decision with regard to your health care power of attorney and last will, and that your last wishes will be respected and undertaken.

A Socialized Health Care System Requires Population Control and Impeccable Registries

In a nationalized health care system, you need to know who is who – otherwise the system could never be able determine who is entitled. The structure depends on how the system is created and designed, but with a nationalized health care system you will be tracked by the state where you reside and how you move in a manner that is unseen in America. The nationalized health care system becomes a vehicle for population control.

If you leave the United States and are no longer a resident of the state, even if you are a citizen and might maintain a driving license, you will have to report immediately if you want to avoid the 13% health care tax. I use the number 13% as it is in Sweden to exemplify the actual tax pressure that is laid upon you for the nationalized health care.

Let’s say you moved and you do not want to pay the 13% tax for services you do not receive, can receive, or want to taken out from the tax roll. The mammoth entity has no interest to let you go so easy. You will end up having to reveal your private life – partner, dwellings, travel, money, and job to prove your case that you have the right to leave the public health care system and do not need to pay the tax. If you have to seek an appeal, your information could be a part of administrative court documents that are open and public documents. As soon as you return to the United States, you will be automatically enrolled again and the taxes start to pile up.

Public universal health care has no interest in protecting your privacy. They want their tax money and, to fight for your rights, you will have to prove that you meet the requirements to not be taxable. In that process, your private life is up for display.

The national ID-card and national population registry that includes your medical information is a foundation of the nationalized health care system. You can see where this is going – population control and ability to use the law and health care access to map your whole private life in public searchable databases owned and operated by the government.

By operating an impeccable population registry that tracks where you live, who you live with, when you move and your citizen status including residency the Swedes can separate who can receive universal health care from those not entitled. The Swedish authorities will know if you have a Swedish social security number, with the tap of the keyboard, more information about yourself than you can remember. The Swedish government has taken sharing of information between agencies to a new level. The reason is very simple – to collect health care tax and suppress any tax evasion.

It is heavily centralized and only the central administration can change the registered information in the data. So if you want to change your name, even the slightest change, you have to file an application at a national agency that processes your paperwork. This centralized population registry makes it possible to determine who is who under all circumstances and it is necessary for the national health care system. Otherwise, any person could claim to be entitled.

To implement that in the United States requires a completely new doctrine for population registry and control. In an American context that would require that every existing driving license had to be voided and reapplied under stricter identification rules that would match not only data from Internal Revenue Service, state government, municipal government, Social Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security but almost any agency that provides services to the general public. The reason why a new population registry would be needed in the United States is the fact that lax rules dating back to the 1940s up until the War on Terrorism, and stricter identification criteria following 9/11, has made a significant percentage of personal information about individuals questionable.

If America instead neglects maintaining secure records, determining eligibility for public health care would not be possible and the floodgates for fraud would open and rampant misuse of the system would prevail. This would eventually bring down the system.

It is financially impossible to create a universal health care system without clearly knowing who is entitled and not. The system needs to have limits of its entitlement. A social security number would not be enough as these numbers have been handed out through decades to temporary residents that might not even live in the United States or might today be out of status as illegal immigrants.

The Congress has investigated the cost of many of the “public options”, but still we have no clear picture of the actual realm of the group that would be entitled and under which conditions. The risk is political. It is very easy for political reasons to extend the entitlement. Politicians would have a hard time being firm on illegal immigrants’ entitlement, as that would put the politicians on a collision course with mainly the Hispanic community as they represent a significant part of the illegal immigrants. So the easy sell is then that everyone that is a legal resident alien or citizen can join according to one fee plan and then the illegal immigrants can join according to a different fee structure. That assumes that they actually pay the fee which is a wild guess as they are likely to be able to get access to service without having to state that they are illegal immigrants.

It would work politically – but again – without an impeccable population registry and control over who is who on a national level, this is unlikely to succeed. The system would be predestined to fail because of lack of funds. If you design a system to provide the health care needs for a population and then increase that population without any additional funds – then naturally it would lead to a lower level of service, declined quality, and waiting lists for complex procedures. In real terms, American health care goes from being a first world system to a third world system.

Thousands, if not a million, American residents live as any other American citizen but they are still not in good standing with their immigration even if they have been here for ten or fifteen years. A universal health care system will raise issues about who is entitled and who is not.

The alternative is for an American universal health care system to surrender to the fact that there is no order in the population registry and just provide health care for everyone who shows up. If that is done, costs will dramatically increase at some level depending on who will pick up the bill – the state government, the federal government, or the public health care system.

Illegal immigrants that have arrived within the last years and make up a significant population would create an enormous pressure on a universal health care, if implemented, in states like Texas and California. If they are given universal health care, it would be a pure loss for the system as they mostly work for cash. They will never be payees into the universal health care system as it is based on salary taxes, and they do not file taxes.

The difference is that Sweden has almost no illegal immigrants compared to the United States. The Swedes do not provide health care services for illegal immigrants and the illegal immigrants can be arrested and deported if they require public service without good legal standing.

This firm and uniform standpoint towards illegal immigration is necessary to avoid a universal health care system from crumbling down and to maintain a sustainable ratio between those who pay into the system and those who benefit from it.

The working middle class that would be the backbone to pay into the system would not only face that their existing health care is halved in its service value – but most likely face higher cost of health care as they will be the ones to pick up the bill.

The universal health care system would have maybe 60 million to 70 million “free riders” if based on wage taxes, and maybe half if based on fees, that will not pay anything into the system. We already know that approximately 60 million Americans pay no taxes as adults add to that the estimated 10-15 million illegal immigrants.

There is no way that a universal health care system can be viably implemented unless America creates a population registry that can identify the entitlements for each individual and that would have to be designed from scratch to a high degree as we can not rely on driver’s license data as the quality would be too low – too many errors.

Many illegal immigrants have both social security numbers and driver’s licenses as these were issued without rigorous control of status before 9/11. The alternative is that you had to show a US passport or a valid foreign passport with a green card to be able to register.

Another problematic task is the number of points of registration. If the registration is done by hospitals – and not a federal agency – then it is highly likely that registration fraud would be rampant. It would be very easy to trespass the control of eligibility if it is registered and determined by a hospital clerk. This supports that the eligibility has to be determined by a central administration that has a vast access to data and information about our lives, income, and medical history. If one single registration at a health care provider or hospital would guarantee you free health care for life and there is no rigorous and audited process – then it is a given that corruption, bribery, and fraud would be synonymous with the system.

This requires a significant level of political strength to confront and set the limits for who is entitled – and here comes the real problem – selling out health care to get the votes of the free riders. It is apparent that the political power of the “free” health care promise is extremely high.

A promise that can not alienate anyone as a tighter population registry would upset the Hispanic population, as many of the illegal immigrants are Hispanics – and many Hispanics might be citizens by birth but their elderly parents are not. Would the voting power of the younger Hispanics act to put pressure to extend health care to elderly that are not citizens? Yes, naturally, as every group tries to maximize its own self-interest.

The risk is, even with an enhanced population registry, that the group of entitled would expand and put additional burden on the system beyond what it was designed for. That could come though political wheeling and dealing, sheer inability from an administrative standpoint to identify groups, or systematic fraud within the system itself.

We can speculate about the outcome but the challenges are clear. This also represents a new threat to the privacy and respect for the private sphere of the citizenry as an increased population registration and control empowers the government with more accurate information about our lives and the way we live our lives. Historically, has any government when given the opportunity to get power taken that opportunity and given that power back to the people after the initial objective was reached? Governments like to stick to power.

To ensure the universal health care system is designed to function as intended it, would require procedures that would limit fraud, amass a significant amount of personal information, have access to all your medical data, and also determine who you are beyond any doubt. Just to be able to determine if you are entitled or not and, track the expenditures you generate.

The aggregation of these data could also open the floodgates for any data mining within these data under the pure excuse that it would help the universal health care system to better “serve you” and lower the costs.

The Smoke and Mirrors of Health Care Reform for the Elderly

I’m deeply concerned that the American public, especially our nation’s elders, will be relying on our government to provide long term care services they’ll never see. They’ll only see the “smoke and mirrors” of Health Care Reform.

Our nation’s seniors are the most vulnerable segment of the U.S. population; vulnerable both health wise and financially. They’re silently discovering the savings they thought would be enough is not enough. They’re silently fearful of running out of money with no one to care for them as they become more frail. The silence is about to become deafening.

Regrettably, when Health Care Reform proudly announced New Long Term Care Services, it discouraged many American’s from purchasing Long Term Care Insurance.

The New York Times reported on ‘Options Expand for Affordable Long-Term Care’ THE NEW OLD AGE. The Associated Press announced ‘New Health Care Law Has Benefits for Seniors’. Point being, the casual reader was relieved to hear their government will “take care of them” when they need long term care services. We now know that is not about to happen.

Fortunately our representatives in Washington discovered that Health Care Reforms answer to the problem of Long Term Care, “CLASS”, (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act) legislation would have been fiscally unsound. $70 billion in premiums that was expected to be raised for the new “long term care” program would have been counted as “deficit reduction”. The long term care benefits it was intended to finance were assumed not to materialize in the first 10 years. However, that money was not accounted for anywhere in the legislation.

The new legislation proposed to “trim” $463 billion from Medicare. Yet Medicare is currently having trouble balancing its books today. Yet, why does the health care bill tell us Medicare can operate more cheaply going forward without the accompanying reforms?

Our national media gave enormous fanfare to the CLASS ACT when it passed. Unfortunately the media has given the CLASS ACT’s demise little attention. Now what?

Projections show that the federal deficit is expected to exceed $700 billion annually over the next decade. This essentially will double the national and $900 billion represents interest on previous debt. Would the CFO of any major corporation in the United States allow the company he worked for to end up in this type of financial position? Absolutely not.

Our officials in Congress have been elected to protect the best interests of the American people. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and once again printing more currency, has become our government’s mantra for the future. Yet the magnitude of the mismanagement of America’s purse strings has now reached an unconscionable state.

The United States of America cannot continue to mismanage its financial future. Future Congresses will have to deliver a multitude of future reforms and, regrettably, history tells us THAT will never happen. Proposals for financing health reform were based on more “smoke and mirrors”. The “Cadillac” tax is scheduled to begin in 2018.

The health care legislation that has been forced on each and every one of us is known to be fiscally unsound. Where do we go from here? It’s too easy to point the finger at the President and his administration. Yet Congress owns the responsibility of passing Health Care Legislation. And THAT is the problem.

The 535 voting members of Congress shared the responsibility equally. If one clear thinking, intelligent, honorable Congressman had the entire responsibility for Health Care Reform, he or she would not have forced a fiscally unsound Health Care Reform Bill down our throats.

Now let’s again evaluate how Health Care Reform will work against our senior citizens.

A most recent government report identified that in 2000 there were 1.8 million available nursing home beds. As the year 2010 came to a close, there were 1.7 million nursing home beds; a net 5 percent reduction in available beds. And, there are no new nursing homes being built.

Today there’s less than 1.5 million Americans confined to nursing homes. Reportedly 10 percent of these nursing homes are operating under bankruptcy protection. It’s well known that most of these facilities are understaffed and many don’t have competent help.

Next, let’s consider that the Alzheimer’s Association tells us the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s after age 85 is 50 percent. By 2030, they tell us that the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.7 million, a 50 percent increase from the 5.2 million age 65 and older currently affected.

The logical question I must ask is “if we cannot take adequate care of 1.5 million people today, how can we possibly take care of 7.7 million people in 2030?” We cannot. More simply put, when you or your spouse or your parent has Alzheimer’s, there is no place for them to go. Not to be cruel, but if you ever think for a moment about taking in an aged parent with Alzheimer’s into your home, please think again. Ask any caregiver who’s been through it. It’s GUARANTEED to destroy any families’ peace of mind and harmony.

Why aren’t our political leaders actively working on solutions? Where’s the outcry? Regrettably our political leaders only align themselves with solvable problems.

America’s seniors became more hopeful reading that Health Reform will help them with added Long Term Care services. And we now know THAT is not going to happen. There are no plans in place to help our nation’s seniors think they’ll receive the comfort and dignity of adequate long term care services. What’s worse is the silence shared by all our political leaders. The silence is now deafening.

Now there’s newfound hope on the horizon. We have a new President election just starting to evolve. What the Republican and Democratic candidates have to say about our nations seniors need for long term care services? What do they think about the need for 7.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s that need a place to spend the night and be cared for when we can’t take care of 1.5 million seniors today?

The national media needs to start reporting that our nation’s seniors will have no place to spend the night when they become too old or frail to take care of themselves. Then the upcoming election presents one more opportunity for our political leaders to pay attention to our nation’s elderly and their need for long term care services.