Thursday, December 28, 2006

State Rep Calls for LTC Study Commission

On December 20, 2006, State Representative Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne), the Democratic Policy Chairman, issued a press release entitled "PA Needs to Find Best Way to Revamp Long-Term Care". He said: "Pennsylvania should conduct an immediate study on long-term care costs to strike a balance between government funding and private companies that still guarantees the highest quality care for seniors."

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging maintains a website intended for consumers about "Long Term Care in Pennsylvania". It lists available state government resources, specifically providing links to the four departments of the Commonwealth involved in long-term care issues: Aging; Heath; Insurance; & Public Welfare.

Since 1988, the Commonwealth's Executive Branch has maintained an "
Intra-Governmental Council On Long-Term Care", described here:

The mission of the Intra-Governmental Council On Long-Term Care is to study the long-term care system in Pennsylvania from a funding, operational and consumer perspective and make recommendations to the governor on ways to streamline administration of the system, and develop a full spectrum of options for consumers and their families.

The Council examines long term care issues in the Commonwealth, including the responsibilities and programs of the various agencies of state government. The council also works to assure that access to the system for consumers is as efficient as possible, and that coordination of payment systems is as unobtrusive as possible, given the requirement to manage scarce public resources.

The Council was created by an Executive Order in March of 1988 and was codified in December of that year with the passage of Act 185.

The Council is comprised of three members of the Cabinet, four members of the General Assembly, and representatives of long term care service sectors and consumers appointed by the governor. The Secretary of Aging chairs the Council.
The publications offered by the PA Long-Term Care Council (described & posted online here) appear to have been issued in the 1999-2002 time frame, and not more recently.

What State Rep. Eachus now contemplates appears to exceed the mission of the existing Council, according to the Press Release:
“Let’s face it, over the next decade the fastest growing segment of our population is going to be those who need long-term care and, given recent reports estimating the cost per-person at $75,000 per year, we cannot simply cross our fingers and hope the current system can handle the load,” Eachus said.

“While the legislature has worked with Governor Rendell to take major steps to promote in-home service and fill the gaps left by federal budget cuts, here in Pennsylvania we know we have to take care of our own, and we should get to work immediately to study the problem so we can be ready.

“That’s why I plan to introduce legislation on the first day of the new legislative session that would create a commission to examine long-term care in the Commonwealth. We’ll see what we’ve done right, what we need to improve, and how to prepare the system for the future.”

Eachus said that he is working with long-term care industry groups who have joined his call for a study.

“These are the people who are on the front lines of long-term care, and they want to have the resources to provide the best care possible. We share that goal, and we want to work with the Rendell administration to make this a key component of restructuring health care. Given recent budget changes in Washington, we need to act quickly, but also act responsibly and with an eye on the future.”
In addition to serving in the leadership of the political party that will take control of the State House in 2007, Rep. Eachus has experience in aging issues. The Press Release notes that he has served on the House Aging Committee for a decade, and recently advocated expansion of the Commonwealth’s senior prescription drug programs.

The Press Release also mentions that he has participated on the White House Task Force on Aging. That Task Force organized the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, attended by approximately 1,200 delegates selected nationwide, one year ago, on December 11-14, 2005, in Washington, D.C. It was the fifth WHCoA in history.
The White House Conference on Aging occurs once a decade to make aging policy recommendations to the President and Congress, and to assist the public and private sectors in promoting dignity, health, independence and economic security of current and future generations of older persons. * * *

Like its predecessors, its purpose was to make recommendations to the President and Congress to help guide national aging policies for the next ten years and beyond.

The 2005 WHCoA focused on the aging of today and tomorrow, including 78 million baby boomers who began to turn 60 in January 2006.

The "Final Report of the 2005 White House Conference on Aging" was adopted on June 14, 2006, and is available online in PDF format here.

Will recommendations made in that Final Conference Report influence the creation of, or the agenda for, the proposed new study commission on long-term care in Pennsylvania?

In the Press Release, Rep. Eachus said he’s "confident the commission can be formed and begin working on the study by early 2007."