As lawmakers wrestle with passing a spending bill to fund the government until Dec. 9, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said Thursday the lack of consensus on operating the federal government “is emblematic of some of the dysfunction here.”
Speaking at a long-term care symposium on Capitol Hill, sponsored by Genworth Financial, Casey said, “We thought we might have a decision today” on the spending bill, and he added, “We’re trying to get from here to Dec. 9,” on legislation to fund the federal government, “and we still haven’t gotten a decision about that.”
Casey also said a “big debate” going forward for lawmakers will be how to “make the math work” so that “the best possible strategies” can be developed to protect older folks, “whether it’s in Social Security obligation and promise—or Medicare or Medicaid.”
But he said lawmakers and policymakers in Washington “are talking about making obscene cuts to Medicaid,”—the program that, “by one estimate, accounts for all nursing home placements.”
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Casey, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said, “We should be honest about the value of these programs, honest about assessing and preserving them, and honest about improving them while meeting that obligation to older citizens.”
Citing National Academy of Sciences data from 2011, Casey said that nearly 18 million family care givers were providing $234 billion in dollars in uncompensated care.
Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, noted during a panel discussion at the event that Medicaid spends in excess of $100 billion each year on long-term care for the elderly and younger people with disabilities. The estimates range from about $100 billion to about $120 billion, he said, with that money being paid directly by Medicaid to providers such as nursing homes or home health agencies.
Gleckman added that both the new Congress and new administration will focus a lot of their attention on entitlement reform.
Indeed, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., another Aging Committee member, said at the Genworth event lawmakers’ goal should be to ensure that the federal government is “not getting in the way” of private sector LTC solutions.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced a bill Wednesday that would improve Medicare coverage for seniors and individuals with disabilities.