MarketWatch brought up a new point to ponder—-the fact long-term care is already rationed. Gleckman noted that health care professionals often find elderly people in their houses; they’ve been dead for a week or more because they hadn’t received the care they needed. Perhaps this kind of rationing hasn’t made it to talk news shows yet because it doesn’t affect the incomes of sellers who would be affected by another kind of “rationing.” If a government authority ruled on the costs and benefits of new technology and said certain interventions might not be cost effective or clinically effective, you can imagine the cries of “rationing” and how Americans are being denied life-saving treatments. But then, this is long-term care we’re talking about, not the latest and greatest—and possibly not so great—medical procedure.
I particularly like the way Powell reported other funding ideas that the country might consider, such as increasing the amount people pay into Social Security to pay for long-term care, or redesigning Social Security so that it pays less in the early retirement years when people have other savings and don’t need care, and more in the later years when they do. Even though Social Security has been one of the dominant topics in Washington this year, the policy elites have kept to a narrow discussion that has not included talk of strengthening Social Security or using it in a different way, such as funding long-term care. The only acceptable dialogue has revolved around cuts, not on ways to strengthen it or how it can be used to pay for long-term care. And the media have followed that framing.
All these are good story ideas for a hungry reporter. Maybe with their help we can really have that adult discussion politicians like to talk about. This one will be about how the country will care for all those people who are living longer.