It was the comment heard around the world. Well, around the United States. OK, maybe just among those in the long-term care arena and some political junkies.
It certainly was heard in my living room when Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election, asked during the most recent debate, “What should we do about long-term care?” and called it “the elephant that doesn’t even fit in this room.”
Klobuchar’s Jan. 14 comment came in the midst of a broader conversation about healthcare. She was the only one of the six candidates on the stage to mention long-term care.
Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, also on the stage with Klobuchar that night, have plans that mention long-term care, in various degrees of detail, posted on their websites. (I didn’t see a mention of long-term care on debater Tom Steyer’s website.) Candidates Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang mention long-term care on their websites, too. All of that is encouraging.
But Klobuchar seems to be the candidate who brings up the topic time and time again, such as in May, when she discussed her family’s experience with assisted living at a campaign event in New Hampshire. And in July when she released her “Plan for Seniors.”
And at the debate.
“We need to make it easier for people to get long-term care insurance. We need to make it easier for them to pay for their premiums,” she said on the stage.
First there needs to be more education — survey after survey show that Americans don’t understand that Medicare, at least in its current form, doesn’t pay for long-term care.
And the clock is ticking. An estimated 10,000 baby boomers — Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — retire from the workforce each day, and in 10 years, 20% of Americans will be of retirement age, getting closer to the time when they could need long-term care, according to government data. In fact, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in history in 2030.
But beyond education, solutions for long-term care financing — and several possibilities already have been put forth by experts — need to be implemented.
Fifty-nine-year-old Klobuchar understands the importance of the issue because, to her, it’s personal. She’s living it.
Those watching the debate heard her describe her family’s experience with the financial end of caring for her father, who has dementia and lives in an assisted living community.
“I know when his long-term care insurance ends, and then we have some savings for him. …But then we go to Medicaid, and I’ve already talked to Catholic Eldercare. They’re willing to take him in,” she said, adding, “Our story is better than so many other families’.”
Maybe an endorsement from the New York Times will call more attention to Klobuchar and her plans and comments about long-term care. But regardless of who the ultimate Democratic nominee is — Klobuchar or someone else — she is right. Long-term care is the elephant in the room. The “silver wave” is imminent, and government officials no longer can afford to ignore it. Those who do, do so to the detriment of older adults and those who care for and about them, as well as our society as a whole.
“We have to make it easier for long-term care,” Klobuchar said. “It’s not just for seniors. It’s also for the sandwich generation, people trying to help their parents.”
She’s saying it. Let’s hope the right people are listening (in addition to those in the long-term care arena and some political junkies), and that Klobuchar’s comments lead others to talk about long-term care, too. And then move beyond talking to doing something.