Academic health policy experts should be paying more attention to the U.S. long-term care (LTC) system.
Jeffrey Brown, a finance professor at the University of Illinois, and Amy Finkelstein, an economist at the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology, make that argument in a general review of the U.S. LTC system published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, an academic journal published by the American Economics Association, Pittsburgh.
LTC accounted for about $203 billion in spending in the United States in 2008, 8.7% of total U.S. health care spending that year, and 1.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), Brown and Finkelstein write.
Despite the immense size of the U.S. LTC system, “many issues about long-term care insurance [(LTCI)] and related public policy are not well understood,” the researchers say. “Most academic attention devoted to health insurance focuses on hospital, emergency department, and outpatient care, as well as prescription drugs.”
The researchers say they hope their paper will help increase the “academic-papers-written-to-public-expenditures” ratio for the LTC sector.
The researchers note that U.S. LTC system is much more similar to the LTC systems in place in other developed countries than the U.S. acute care system is, and that the U.S. LTC system costs about as much as the LTC systems in place in the other developed countries.
The researchers report federal survey results suggesting at as many as 13% of U.S. residents ages 60 to 69 may now have private LTCI, up from 10% in the late 1990s.