Avoiding The Long-Term-Care Catastrophe

Bruce Chernoff was right when he told the Washington Post that the long-term-care crisis in the United States will be catastrophic. Our aging population and changing demographics mean that we are becoming a nation with substantially more older people in need of care and substantially fewer younger people to provide it. The Washington Post article, while frightening in its content, is a relief in many ways as it means that at last there is a beginning of a consciousness of what our future holds.

The fact is that the United States is rapidly aging and our healthcare system isn’t keeping up. This isn’t just an issue for the elderly, it’s an issue for all of us. There is a rising cost to living longer. People older than 65 account for a disproportionate share of healthcare spending, in large part due to an increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and an excessive dependence on emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

There are promising solutions to this problem, however. These solutions move healthcare outside of hospitals and into homes, with potential cost savings in the billions. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations recently launched a pilot project to see whether home-based care could reduce the long term need for hospital visits among those 65 and older, and lower costs to Medicare. Over the first year of the project, nine out of the 17 participating sites reported combined savings of more than $25 million.

To make the move, we will be required to build up our home care workforce. This is an important opportunity. The only reliable source of job growth in advanced economies is in healthcare, which includes home healthcare. There are a number of things we can do to create this new workforce.

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Originally Published on Forbes (September 6, 2019)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.