Researchers recommend using Medicare to push long-term care insurance

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The best chance to increase the number of Americans buying long-term care insurance may be to sink Medicare funds into an education program about it, researchers say. The number of people 65 or older have long-term care insurance has stagnated at about 10% in recent years, according to an overview released with several proposals.

At least half of eight proposals generated by experts with Georgetown University's Long-Term Care Financing Project looked to Medicare for answers this week. Medicare does not directly pay long-term care costs, although half of retirees believe it does.

A so-called "Medi-LTC" program for long-term care coverage would educate skeptical individuals about the safety of a proposed pool of private insurance policies; the program also would set minimum standards for long-term care insurance, and ideally give the product a "seal of approval" due to its Medicare affiliation.

Other plans called for the option of swapping Medicare Part B coverage for long-term coverage and using an income tax surcharge to fund long-term care. Judith Feder, dean of public policy at Georgetown University, and Sheila P. Burke, undersecretary for American Museums with the Smithsonian Institution, co-produced the report, along with an advisory group.

The reports and background information on the project are available at http://ltc.georgetown.edu/.