Tight timeline forces LTC commission to narrow its ambitions, member says

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With its report due by the end of September, the Congressional Long-Term Care Commission is setting its sights on what can be accomplished in an “extraordinarily short time-frame,” according to member Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

The commission will continue to investigate an extension of the deadline, but members have been informed that it currently stands, Stein told McKnight's. The January fiscal cliff legislation that repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act also created the Long-Term Care Commission, convening it for a period of six months following the appointment of its 15 members.

“Given that there was just a full commission a few weeks ago, I was hoping we might be able to start the timeframe then,” Stein said, referring to the recent replacement of member Bruce Greenstein, former Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals.

Greenstein, who was appointed to the commission by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), faces federal and state investigations related to potential perjury charges. He was replaced by Christopher Jacobs, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

A lawyer and long-time advocate for Medicare beneficiaries, Stein identified a number of priorities she brings to the commission: pushing for strong social insurance as well as private models to finance long-term care; ensuring that people don't have to impoverish themselves to qualify for coverage; and making sure there are “very clear and fair consumer protections” around any private-pay systems. However, she said, drawing attention to pressing long-term care issues, laying out some statements of principle and helping clarify possible directions may be all that is realistic for the commission now.

“We're dealing with the art of the possible,” she said.

The commission recently named SCAN Foundation President Bruce A. Chernof as chair and set its first meeting for June 27. But members are still putting together an agenda and hashing out their schedules, Stein said. The timing adds to the commission's challenges, she observed, noting summer means even more scheduling issues.

Commission vice-chair Mark Warshawsky, director of retirement research at consulting firm Towers Watson, has expressed similar concerns about the timeframe. The commission needs 18 months to formulate recommendations to Congress on how long-term care is financed and delivered, Warshawsky told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.