The United States needs to come up with new ways of thinking quickly to cope with the looming crisis in long term care finance.[@@]

Speakers presented that message here today at a White House “mini conference” on long term care. The White House organized the mini conference, which took place at a conference center away from the White House, to help shape the LTC finance portion of the agenda for the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, which is scheduled for October.

Dorcas Hardy, policy chairman for the White House Conference on Aging, pointed out at the mini conference that the oldest of the U.S. baby boomers will turn 60 in just 8 months.

Advances in health care could reduce use of formal long term care by the future “old old” Americans, but for now, policymakers are assuming that factors such as the huge size of the boomer population, increasing life expectancies and increasing obesity and diabetes rates will translate into a huge increase in demand for home care, nursing home care and other forms of long term care.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Plans, Washington, called on policymakers and others to change the way they think about insurance.

“It’s time to end the differentiation between acute care and long term care,” she said.

One of Ignagni’s specific proposals was a call for Congress to let employees use flexible spending account benefits to buy long term care coverage.