CHICAGO — Imposing term limits on elected federal officials would help solve funding issues for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Gary D. Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council and assistant for economic policy in the Trump administration, told those attending Thursday’s opening general session of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Fall Conference.

“Our system is so broken, it’s not even funny,” the former Goldman Sachs president and chief operating officer said. “We have to come to the realization that professional politicians are not what we need in this country. We have to go to term limits, because the fact is that politicians are governing people for one purpose and one purpose only, which is re-election and raising money from constituents.”

Elected officials’ concerns about votes and donations prevented collaboration that could have enabled Cohn’s ideas for fixing “entitlement” programs to gain a foothold in Washington during his time with the administration, he said. Even when potential changes wouldn’t have affected current voters, Cohn said, many politicians won’t budge.

For Social Security, for instance, he suggested changing the timing at which benefits kick in beginning with people born in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

“Heaven forbid you suggest changing a benefit for someone who votes. Impossible,” he said. “I said, ‘OK, let’s go to non-voters. So I said, ‘Let’s go 15 and under.’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Ten and under?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘OK, people who are born yet?’ ‘Nope. Can’t do it.’ ”

Spending must be reduced, however, Cohn said.

“When you look at what’s going on with our aging population and life expectancy and how long people are going to get Medicare and Social Security, we’re going to end up spending substantially more money on those services, and they are going to continue to grow every year,” he said. “And without dealing with those issues, we are going to have no discretionary spending in the budget.”

Delaying implementation of a solution is not the answer, Cohn said. “If we started on it today, it’s painful,” he said. “When we’re going to start on it, it is going to be impossible.”

Mullen Scholarship Fund created

Also at the meeting, NIC founder and Strategic Adviser Bob Kramer announced the establishment of the Anthony J. Mullen Scholarship Fund to benefit undergraduate and graduate students at the Erickson School of Aging Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

To date, he said, $400,000 has been raised for the endowment, and NIC expects that $600,000 will be raised in memory of the senior housing and care veteran and NIC co-founder.

Six organizations — NIC, the American Seniors Housing Association, Benchmark Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, Erickson Living and Ventas — have committed between $25,000 and $100,000 each for the fund, and additional companies and individuals have made donations or promises as well, Kramer said.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to build a legacy to honor what Anthony J. Mullen did for the senior living and care community. It is rare to have that opportunity to work with visionary people, and my one regret in all of this is that I did not have the opportunity to meet him before his death,” Erickson School Dean Dana Burr Bradley, Ph.D., told McKnight’s Senior Living. “I’m working with the donors to craft a vision for what that endowed money will go for. It’s being directed for scholarship money for undergraduate and graduate students at the Erickson School, but how we will implement that is still a bit of a puzzle. But we’re really envisioning more than just a scholarship but an experience for these students that honors Tony’s commitment to creating strong communities for older adults that are driven by informed data decisions.”

Those interested in donating to the fund may contact NIC or the Erickson School, Kramer said.

Outstanding Research Paper named

Additionally at the meeting, “Partners in Care in Assisted Living: Fostering Cooperative Communication Between Families and Staff,” a paper published in the Senior Housing & Care Journal, was named Outstanding Research Paper. It was written by Karl Pillemer, Ph.D.; Leslie Schultz; Marie Tillema Cope, MSW, MPH; Rhoda H. Meador, Ph.D.; and Charles Henderson Jr.

The 2018 NIC Fall Conference ends Friday. The 2019 Fall Conference will be Sept. 11 to 13 in Chicago.

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