The United States may be in a better position than many other developed countries to meet demand for long term care (LTC) services.

Analysts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, have compared the U.S. LTC system with the LTC systems in other developed countries in a new report on providing and paying for long term care in OECD countries.

In the acute-care sector, the United States is known for high costs and weak safety nets. The United States spends more than twice as much on acute care per resident than other OECD countries spend, and the results have been mediocre.

In the LTC sector, the United States spends just 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) on long term care, compared with an OECD average of 1.5% of GDP, but the United States provides 42 LTC beds per 1,000 residents ages 65 and older, which is close to the average of 44 LTC beds per 1,000 residents ages 65 and older in comparable OECD countries.

The United States and England are the only countries with well-developed LTC safety nets for the poor, and the United States and France are the only OECD countries with well developed private LTC insurance markets, the OECD analysts say.

French LTC insurers have done a better job of penetrating the market than U.S. LTC insurers have, possibly because the French insurers have focused on selling simple products that pay cash benefits, the analysts say.

- Allison Bell

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