Why Big Storms Like Irma and Harvey Are Needlessly Killing Frail Elders

You probably saw the headline: Six die in a Florida nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma. They won’t be the last frail elders to die needlessly.

Many frail seniors who were living on the edge are going to die in southeast Texas and Florida in the coming weeks.  We will probably never know how many because most will die in their homes or in hospitals—one at a time. Unlike the attention-getting visibility of six deaths in one facility, these will be silent deaths, unnoticed by all except their families and friends.

Stand-alone  Long-Term Care Insurance Continues To Fade Away

Only about 89,000 people bought private long-term care insurance in 2016, a nearly 14 percent decline from 2015, according to an industry survey.  Nearly all were bought in the individual market, though about 15,000 people purchased coverage through their jobs.

The sales decline continues a stunning trend. At the market’s peak in 2002, consumers bought 750,000 traditional policies, eight times what they purchased last year. For the second year in a row, the total number of people covered by long-term care insurance fell slightly as more dropped coverage, died, or exhausted benefits than bought new policies.  Roughly 7 million people currently own traditional policies, a number that has not changed in a decade even as the population of those 55 and older (those most likely to buy or use long-term care insurance) has grown by 30 milllion.

Older Adults May Be Making Much More Money Than We Thought

Older adults in the US may be making nearly one-third more, on average, than commonly thought, according to an important new study by two US Census Bureau researchers. Their report, published last month, finds that the median household income for those 65 and older was about $44,400 in 2012, significantly higher than the $33,800 previously reported by Census.

The implications of the study, by Adam Bee and Joshua Mitchell, are extremely important. It found that, based on these new measures, the poverty rate among seniors was about 6.9 percent, much less than the official 9.1 percent rate. And the importance of Social Security to many older adults may also have been overstated. Using traditional Census measurements, Social Security lifted about 15 million seniors out of poverty. These new data suggest the retirement program kept about 10 million out of poverty.

Are We Getting Closer To A Cheap, Simple Alzheimer’s Test? What Would It Mean?

Have you seen the stories about new tests for Alzheimer’s Disease that supposedly are just around the corner? The claims: A simple blood test, an eye test, even a smell test that could show that you are at high risk for Alzheimer’s decades before you develop symptoms. They are promising, scary, and–so far–premature.

Sadly, we’ve seen this movie before. Like most Alzheimer’s-related science, there turns out to much less to these stories than their promoters claim. For years, we’ve heard about the drug cures, or the brain-training products, diets, or exercise programs that can delay dementia. None have panned out. And it is far too early to know if cheap, accurate, and non-invasive early testing will either.

How The Lives Of Seniors In The US Match Up Against The Rest Of The World

Older adults in the US are better off, on average, than those in other countries, according to a new index developed by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Southern California. However, while US seniors do relatively well by quality of life measures such as social connections at work and across generations, they fall in the middle of the pack when it comes to physical well-being and financial and personal security.  And, not surprisingly, the gap between those doing well and those doing relatively poorly is greater in the US than in many other developed countries.

Federal Judge OKs A Class Action Lawsuit Over Appeals In Medicare Observation Cases

Two of the greatest sources of frustration for Medicare recipients and their families are observation status and the government’s incredibly complex appeals process. On Monday, a federal judge in Hartford CT, certified a class action lawsuit aimed at addressing both. The judge’s eventual decision in the case (Alexander v. Price) could have far-reaching effects on both the burgeoning use of observation status in hospitals and the rights of people getting Medicare to dispute decisions about their care.

Why Is Congress Having Such A Hard Time Replacing The Affordable Care Act?

For seven years, “repeal and replace” worked as a great glib political alliteration (see, I can do it too). It was key to Republicans winning control of Congress in 2012 and helped Donald Trump take the White House in 2016. But actually doing it, well, nobody knew it could be so hard.

But why is it so tough? In short, because reducing insurance premiums, which most Americans favor, requires controlling medical costs, which most Americans oppose. And without solving the medical cost problem, lawmakers can’t really fix the insurance problem.  So Democrats try to mask rising premiums with ever-increasing government subsidies while Republicans would reduce insurance costs by effectively blocking sick people from buying coverage, thus creating a low-cost risk pool of mostly healthy people.

What This Week’s Congressional Action On Health Care And Social Services Will Mean For Seniors

Congress took two big steps this week that could have a major impact on seniors and younger people with disabilities. The one that got the most attention, of course, was the Senate’s failure to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The second, which was barely noticed, was a series of key decisions by House Republicans on how much money senior service programs will receive next year. These choices will have a significant impact on older adults and younger people with disabilities in 2018 and in the future.

A Bipartisan Group Proposes A Package of Modest, But Important Long-Term Care Financing Reforms

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington (DC) based group that develops consensus policy solutions,  has proposed a series of reforms aimed at helping families finance long-term care for themselves and their loved ones. The proposal aims to encourage more people to buy private long-term care insurance, including through Medicare,  and would provide a new Medicare respite benefit for family caregivers.

BPC’s latest proposals come about 18 months after the group suggested a package of initial financing ideas, including better access to workplace-based long-term care insurance and general support for the concept of public catastrophic insurance. This week’s proposals were relatively modest.  And the group failed to agree on the details of a catastrophic program. Still, while the new report falls well short of fixing the nation’s long-term care financing problem, it does address some key issues.

On-Demand Services Can Help Seniors Ease Age In Place But Be Aware of Their Limits

The uberization of senior services is all the rage. You can download an app and order up a home visit from a doctor. You can get home delivered groceries or prepared foods. And, of course, you can get a ride.

While these services were designed primarily for the young and overworked, there are real potential benefits for older adults and others with disabilities who are aging in place. The most obvious: They have the potential to deliver critical supports to people with mobility issues.