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  • Archive for January, 2010

    Did You Know…

    Thursday, January 21st, 2010

    • The older population (65+) numbered 38.9 million in 2008, an increase of 4.5 million or 13% since 1998.
    • The number of Americans aged 45-64 – who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 31% during this decade.
    • Over one in every eight, or 12.8% of the population is an older American.
    • Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.6 years (19.8 years for females and 17.1 years for males).
    • Older women outnumber older men at 22.4 million older women to 16.5 million older men.
    • Older men were much more likely to be married than older women – 72% of men vs. 42% of women. 42% of older women in 2002 were widows.
    • About 31% (11.2 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.3 million women, 2.9 million men).
    • Half of older women (50%) age 75+ live alone.
    • About 471,00 grandparents aged 65 or more had primary responsibility of their grandchildren who lived with them.
    • The median incom of older persons in 2008 was $25,503 for males and $14,559 for females. Households containing families headed by persons 65+ reported a median income in 2008 of $44,188.
    • Major sources of income for older people in 2007 were: Social Security (reported by 87% of older persons), income from assets (reported by 52%), private pensions (reported by 28%), government employee pensions (reported by 13%), and earnings (reported by 25%).
    • Social Security constituted 90% or more of the income received by 35% of all Social Security beneficiaries (21% of married couples and 44% of non-married beneficiaries).

    *Statistics provided by the Administration on Aging’s 2009 Profile – principal sources of the data are the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the National Center on Health Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To read more on AoA’s 2009 profile click here.

    Is the long term care component of the health care bill really a “CLASS Act?”

    Thursday, January 14th, 2010

    The healthcare debate continues to be controversial and complex, and the CLASS Act seems to fall into both of those categories. The Class Act is one of the health reform components receiving a lot of attention—it is short for “Community Living Assistance Services and Supports” Act, and it would provide a voluntary system of long-term care insurance for Americans.

    The way it works is that individuals would automatically be enrolled in the program through their employer unless they choose to opt out. The employer would take out monthly premiums from pay and send the funds to a “Life Independence Account.” After employees pay into the account for five years, they would be eligible to receive funds if they become disabled — meaning they are unable to perform two or more daily activities like bathing, or dressing. Those eligible to receive benefits would receive at least $50 per day in assistance for the remainder of their lives.

    Arguments in support of and in opposition to the new program:

    Supporters emphasize that there is a huge population in need of care who would rather stay in their communities, but are forced to spend down their savings to qualify for Medicaid and enter nursing homes, or they require family members to provide unpaid caregiving assistance. Approximately one-fifth of Americans provided care for others, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Elderly spouses, most often wives, provided care for relatives for more than 30 hours each week.

    If the CLASS Act (the Act) was in place, care-providing women might have access to paid help for a few hours each day. Two thirds of working caregivers are forced to take time off from work to provide care, so this benefit could help family caregivers to improve and maintain their own job security. Finally, Community living is much less expensive than living in facilities and the Act could help limit long-term care costs.

    Opponents are not as much opposed to the rationale for the program, as they are focused on the financial details — the program’s administration and its long-term impacts on the federal budget. Whether the program would be financially sustainable also remains debatable. The short-term financial outlook for the program is good, because individuals will pay premiums without receiving benefits. However, once participants start to become eligible for benefits, the trend is expected to turn in the opposite direction.

    Another related concern is that only people who are prone to long-term illness may stay enrolled in the program, which would make higher premiums necessary to support the high-need participants. Finally, some opponents believe that this program will lead Americans to develop a false sense of security in terms of their long-term care insurance needs. While the Act is not meant as a substitute for private long-term care insurance, the concern is that people enrolled in the federal program will think they have all of the coverage they need.

    If you wish to educate yourself about long-term care insurance further, WISER’s website has several informative fact sheets on the subject.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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