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Low Expectations for Federal Long-Term Care Commission

Last year federal legislation was passed affecting elder care issues. In particular, the new law eliminated a floundering attempt to create a national long-term care insurance program. At the same time, the law also called for the creation of a commission to study issues of senior care financing, delivery, and workforce needs. Known as the “Long-Term Care Commission,” the general idea was that the diverse Commission would investigate the issues, create policy proposals, and submit the ideas to Congress to spur possible legislation.

The Status Update
Unfortunately, as a recent Forbes story shares, the Commission is still in dock and there are serious doubts as to whether it will be able to achieve its mission at all. The first issue is that the slate of 15 people to sit on the panel have yet to be decided upon. Apparently the White House has yet to make its three choices, and nothing can be done until the roster is actually complete.

Once the full 15 are agreed upon, the next steps will be to elect a chairperson and set the agenda. All of this must be done in an efficient manner, however, because the law which created the Commission indicated that the group has only six months to complete its entire mission, including researching the issues, investigating the options, crafting proposals, and writing the report. The deadline is tough to meet in ordinary circumstances, and the task is made particularly difficult considering the Commission has no budget and, consequently, no staff members.

Still, even if timing was not an an issue, perhaps the biggest handicap that is causing some to downplay the group’s importance is the fact that Congress is under no obligation to do anything with the information provided to it by the Commission. As recent “crises” like the fiscal cliff and sequester cuts demonstrate, Congress is usually loathe to act on anything these days unless forced to. In other words, most are not holding their breath that the Commission will play a critical role in possible legislative battles related to the long-term care situation in the country.

Still, that is not to say that the Commission’s work might not prove helpful to frame the debate and set the stage for the menu of options that might be pursued on these policies in the coming years. At some point in the future political leaders will likely have to do more to address possible deficiencies when it comes to access and financing of long term care.

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