Grassley Re-introduces Bill to Help People Pay for Long-term Care
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, has reintroducedhis bipartisan legislation to help Americans pay for the high costs of long-term care --nursing home stays, assisted living, home health aides, and other services -- that easily can exceedretirement budgets.
“More and more, Americans are interested in private insurance to pay for long-term care,”Grassley said. “A lot of people get sticker shock when they see how much a nursing home or homehealth nurse costs. Long-term care insurance helps with the expenses, but most people find thepolicies unaffordable. This bill helps to make long-term care insurance more affordable, and moreaccessible, for more Americans.”
Grassley’s bill, the Long-Term Care and Retirement Security Act of 2003 (S. 1335), is alongstanding priority. Grassley introduced the bill, as he has in the past, with Democratic Sen. BobGraham.
Grassley said the younger the person, the less expensive the long-term care insurance policy,but most people aren’t ready to buy a policy until retirement. The bill gives individuals an abovethe-line tax deduction for the cost of their long-term care insurance policy. This significantdeduction would phase in, with a faster phase-in for those 55 years old and older.
The bill also allows individuals or their caregivers a $3,000 tax credit to help cover theirlong-term care expenses. This would apply to those who have been certified by a doctor as needinghelp with 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 incurred whilecaring for family members with disabilities.
Another provision allows employers to include the deduction provision for long-term carepolicies in “cafeteria plans” in which employees are able to choose from a variety of benefits fordifferent types of care, and flexible spending accounts in which employees set aside pre-tax dollarsto pay for long-term care insurance.
In introducing the bill, Grassley cited the Gardner family of Waterloo, Iowa, as individualswho would benefit from it. Ruth Gardner is a 70-year-old mother of nine who suffers from adegenerative tissue disorder, atrial fibrillation, and congestive heart failure and is a breast cancersurvivor. For the last three years, her nine children, their spouses and numerous grandchildren haveworked tirelessly to fulfill Mrs. Gardner’s wish of spending her last months with dignity at home,Grassley said.
Grassley said while Mrs. Gardner’s wish may seem small, the task of managing her care isnot. Each week family members meet to organize their schedules to provide more than 20 hours ofdaily care for Mrs. Gardner. Working relentlessly, and at a considerable cost, the Gardner familymanages to provide around-the-clock care while balancing their work and family lives. The familyhas been able to locate some funding to help support the care for Mrs. Gardner; however, the familymembers continue to bear considerable costs, including weekly nursing visits at $102 apiece,emergency response service at $30 a month, and daily hospice service at $32 an hour.
Grassley said the Long-Term Care and Retirement Security Act would help the nation’s 22million family caregivers like the Gardner family. A $3,000 tax credit would help to pay for Mrs.Gardner’s monthly hospice care, weekly nurse visits or help to hire a nurse to cover some of the timethat the family currently donates. This legislation would help the increasing number of familiesplaced in the difficult situation of caring for a loved one by allowing them to purchase long-term careinsurance. Had this legislation been enacted earlier, long-term care insurance likely would have beenan affordable option for the Mrs. Gardner, alleviating the difficult situation her family faces,Grassley said.
Grassley said as it has in the past, the bill has been endorsed by both the AARP and theHealth Insurance Association of America. A companion bill sponsored by Reps. Nancy Johnson andEarl Pomeroy is pending in the House.
“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. I look forward to working withSenator Graham and our colleagues in the Senate to get our bill passed into law as soon as possible.”
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