By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 1/4/2010 11:49:26 AM ET 2010-01-04T16:49:26

Claim: Congress will create a new long-term care program but its funding is uncertain.

For more than 20 years, members of Congress have tried to come up with measures that would provide some help to disabled and elderly people who require long-term care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, "over 10 million Americans need long-term services and supports to assist them in life's daily activities, and the number is expected to grow with the aging of the population and growing number of people with disabilities." Many of these people are covered by Medicaid, but that program is straining states' finances. The elderly and people with disabilities make up one-quarter of Medicaid enrollees, but account for 70 percent of Medicaid spending.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. The House and the Senate bills set up a voluntary long-term care program. No taxpayer funds would be used to pay benefits, but the premiums would go into the Treasury. The first benefits would paid in 2016. The Congressional Budget Office said the program "would pay out far less in benefits than it would receive in premiums over the 10-year budget window (2010-2019), reducing (federal) deficits by about $72 billion over that period." The American Academy of Actuaries, a nonpartisan group of risk analysts, said the program "will attract a disproportionate share of higher-risk individuals" which would mean that "future increases in premiums and/or reductions in benefits may be required to make the program sustainable." Chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster said there was "a very serious risk" that the program would be "unsustainable."

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