An expensive doorstop

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

It's hard to reflect on the Commission on Long-Term Care's recently submitted report without getting hacked off.

To call it a fool's errand would be to insult misdirected dimwits. 

To say it was a waste of time and resources would be to affront bureaucratic bungling gone wild. 

To call it one of the more cynical political maneuvers we've seen from Washington in a while would be, well, pretty accurate.

Nothing in this report would surprise any reasonably well-informed long-term care professional. That is, unless you're unfamiliar with concepts such as eliminating Medicare's three-night hospital inpatient requirement to qualify for post-acute coverage. Or that it might be a good thing for people to receive care in the most appropriate setting available. Or that applying new technology options could prove useful.

Let's face it: The Congressional Research Service could have done something just as good, just as fast, and a lot cheaper.

Many people have suspected from the beginning that this would turn out to be another Washington-style kabuki dance. But the final nail in the proverbial coffin was delivered just before the report's submission. That's when we learned the commission could not agree on how to address the central long-term care challenge: paying for care.

That's like designing a car for the future without determining how the engine will work. So rather than a blueprint, we were handed optional checklists with supporting commentary.

In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that things turned out so poorly. Congress finally got around to establishing this committee in January, as part of a larger fiscal cliff deal. Then it took our president and Congressional leaders three months to finalize its members. 

So the commission basically had 100 days on a tight budget to identify and fix the nation's long-term woes, in a report that Congress was not required to take action on. 

This year's group turned out to be a poor man's version of the Pepper Commission, which released a landmark report covering the same ground — only in a much better way — in 1990.