March 27,2001

Grassley Introduces Bill to Ease Long-term Care Costs

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, todayintroduced legislation to ease the tremendous cost of long-term care. He cited an Otley, Iowa, familyas the perfect example of the millions of families nationwide that bear the financial burden of caringfor a loved one.

“Many Americans will need some kind of long-term care. Most Americans will have troubleaffording it,” Grassley said. “Long-term care is expensive in any form. Making it affordablerequires a lot of creative thinking. Congress has an important role in using the tax code to helppeople with long-term care expenses.”

Grassley and Sen. Bob Graham re-introduced their Long-term Care and Retirement SecurityAct, which they sponsored in the last Congress. The bipartisan measure would:Allow individuals a tax deduction for the cost of long-term care insurance premiums.

Increasingly, Americans are interested in private long-term care insurance to pay for nursinghome stays, assisted living, home health aides and other services. However, most peoplefind the policies unaffordable. The younger the person, the lower the insurance premium,yet most people aren’t ready to buy a policy until retirement. A deduction would encouragemore people to buy long-term care insurance.

Give individuals or their caregivers a $3,000 tax credit to help cover their long-term careexpenses. This would apply to those who have been certified by a doctor as needing helpwith at least three activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing or dressing. This creditwould help caregivers pay for medical supplies, nursing care and any other expenses ofcaring for family members with disabilities.

Grassley said the Van Zee family of Otley, Iowa, typifies many families who would benefitfrom his legislation. Renee Van Zee at 55 years old has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Threeyears after her diagnosis, she can’t feed, bathe or dress herself.

Her daughter, Leanna, and her husband, Albert, are pulling out all the stops to keep Mrs. VanZee out of a nursing home. They care for her full-time. They’ve found some services throughMedicaid and Medicare and received a donated hospital bed.

Even so, caring for Mrs. Van Zee is difficult. She can’t be left alone at any time. Thefamily’s network of services is piecemeal, like that of many families in similar straits. Thoseservices could change with any change in their circumstances.

The family bears considerable out-of-pocket expenses for Mrs. Van Zee’s nutritionalsupplements. The supplements cost $4.96 for a four-pack of cans. Mrs. Van Zee consumes two orthree cans a day.

Grassley said it’s obvious how this situation affects a family’s finances. Working adults quittheir jobs to care for a loved one, and take on a host of new expenses at the same time, he said.Grassley said his legislation would help the 22 million family caregivers, like the Van Zees.

A $3,000 tax credit would help to pay for Mrs. Van Zee’s nutritional supplements or hire an extranurse. The legislation also would help families like the Van Zees buy long-term care insurance;maybe Mrs. Van Zee would have bought herself insurance years ago, had it been an affordableoption for her, Grassley said.

As it did last year, Grassley’s legislation today received the support of two disparate groups,the AARP and the Health Insurance Association of America. A House bill is pending from abipartisan group led by Reps. Nancy Johnson, Karen Thurman and Earl Pomeroy.

“An aging nation has no time to waste in preparing for long-term care,” Grassley said. “Theneed to help people afford long-term care is more pressing than ever. My colleagues and I will workto get our bill passed into law as soon as possible.”