A few months ago, Brenda Bouchard posted a beautiful collection of YouTube videos.
The New Hampshire resident put the presidential primary campaign season in a whole new, softer light by asking the candidates what they thought about Alzheimer’s disease and long-term care.
Former Republican presidential candidate and current U.S. senator from Texas Ted Cruz, for example, has a reputation for being a tough man, but he gave a detailed, emotional, personal explanation of why he cares about Alzheimer’s disease.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had a multipart plan. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump talked about the sadness of seeing friends suffering from Alzheimer’s and the need for funding for research.
Now, Clinton’s pick of Virgina Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate and Trump’s pick of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his vice president has created a great opportunity for the country to organize a special new kind of debate: A debate showing what the vice presidential candidates think about long-term care issues.
Kaine was the lieutenant governor of Virginia from 2002 through 2006 and the governor of that state from 2006 through 2010. He’s been representing Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 2013, and he’s a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Pence served in the U.S. House from 2001 through 2013, and he’s been Indiana’s governor since 2013.
Pence was a strong advocate for his state’s Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership program — a program that encourages people to buy private long-term care coverage by easing Medicaid nursing home benefits eligibility rules for Partnership coverage users who run out of private long-term care insurance benefits. A letter he sent on behalf of the program in 2013 was enthusiastic enough that a state resident dubbed Pence “Insurance Salesman Pence.”
While Pence was in the House, he cosponsored several bills that could have promoted use of health savings accounts or similar accounts to pay for LTCI premiums and long-term care services.
Kaine said during a speech at a Medicaid meeting in 2006 that he thought private long-term care insurance was still in its infancy; that Medicaid was “practically the sole payer of long-term care”; and that states had to focus on reducing the need for long-term care, by using wellness and chronic condition management programs to improve population health.
But Virginia set up its Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership program while Kaine was governor, and, in 2007, he encouraged use of the program with an “Own Your Future” campaign.
The press release included a statement from Kaine in which he said that, “Most of us have strong opinions about what we want for ourselves as we age, but many of us have not taken the steps to address these needs.”
“Planning for your future allows you to make these important life decisions yourself, instead of leaving them to others or waiting for a crisis that could limit your options,” Kaine said in the release.
Of course, what Kaine said in that statement about long-term care planning applies to the United States as a whole as well as to the people of the United States.
The more actively policymakers think about long-term care issues, the more likely it will be that our nation can offer a decent standard care for older people who cannot handle the activities of daily living, rather than scrambling to do whatever it takes to reduce the number of older people living on the sidewalk.
Pence and Kaine are in an ideal position to address these issues because they know how Congress works, and they know what it’s like to be a governor reading heart-breaking descriptions of state residents who are in dire situations because of problems with personal and public long-term care planning.
They both know what it’s like to have to choose between using Medicaid money for older nursing home residents, who may well have adult children who could be doing more to pay for their care, and destitute children and adults, who may have no alternative but to depend on government health programs and the kindness of strangers.
Pence is the governor of the home state of CNO Financial Group. Kaine was the governor of the home state of Genworth Financial. That means they may also have an unusually strong understanding of what private long-term care insurance issuers are up against.
And the great thing about them both agreeing to talk about this issue in a debate is that long-term care policy is a fairly low-risk issue. Everyone agrees that we have to do something. The only question is what will actually work.
So, why not push for debate organizers to organize a Kaine-Pence long-term care debate?
It seems likely that most of the rest of the national campaign season will be grim and angry, focused mainly on who’s allegedly crooked and who’s allegedly crazy, rather than on issues.
Maybe a Kaine-Pence long-term care policy debate could make up for some of that nastiness by shining a little light on a topic that could use some light.
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