(NaturalNews) Published just this past Monday, U.S. News & World Report highlights two responses from aging Americans who took the Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey. First, two-thirds are anxious about long-term health care costs. Second, most are unaware of which costs are covered and how insurance (and Obamacare) fits into the puzzle.
According to the survey, one-half of respondents were under the assumption that the majority of long-term health care costs were the responsibility of the patient. About one-third thought Medicare covered the tab. Evidently, just shy of one-fifth of the surveyors actually understood that the principal funder is Medicaid. To compound issues, most people do not realize that Medicaid won't even kick in until patients' assets have been drained enough to qualify for assistance.
Looming danger awaits
According to U.S. News & World Report, "One thing most people agree on: as America ages, the problem of how to pay for seniors' long-term care will only get worse." Almost 90 percent of respondents referred to the situation as "serious" or "somewhat serious." There are currently about 12 million Americans in some form of long-term care and that is expected to double by 2030.
Another government bail-out?
Evidently, Americans are looking for the government to cover this bill. The new poll noted that over two-thirds of respondents responded in favor of a "new government program" to ease the inevitable financial burden of our aging populace. Maybe this is the only option. Far too few U.S. citizens have the funds to save for the future, especially as health care costs continue to rise. To complicate matters, fewer birth rates means that there will be a significant shortage of family caregivers to meet the needs of their aging loved-ones.
Looking ahead: sneaking a peak at China
If Americans were wise, we'd keep a keen eye out to see how China is handling this situation. Bloomberg just published an article last month explaining how China is emulating Western-care, as they struggle to manage the explosion of elderly citizens. By 2020, China is expected to have an improved service system covering daily tendance, medical care, psychological counseling and emergency aid. According to a circular issued by the State Council, or China's cabinet, the emerging system will provide more than 10 million jobs.
Looking to the East instead of the West
Instead of looking at the West for answers, research suggests China's solution is in their backyard. An article published in the journal "Psychogeriatrics" outlines Japan's National Long-Term Care insurance measure implemented over a decade ago. After evaluating Japan's insurance scheme, which requires adults over 40 years old to contribute to compulsory monthly premiums - seemingly substantially less than private insurance premiums - researchers suggest the it could be the effective solution the world is looking for. By recruiting everyone over 40, Japan has successfully mitigated the personal burden associated with long-term care. In their article, Arit and Zait suggest that "the implication for other countries is that a system of burden sharing at the societal level may have a positive effect on reducing, and possibly preventing, the burden of care of 'present day' care-givers." Subsequently, "such a system can get the general public accustomed to the idea of sharing the burden of caregiving before any individual actually needs assistance."
Although, this is not seen only in Japan; Scandinavian countries are known for long-standing cultural patterns of shared responsibility, particularly Sweden. Finally, the Japanese insurance scheme has been shown to reduce - and even prevent - societal caregiver burden, and this primary prevention model can serve as an education tool to help people prepare for future long-term care needs.
Aria, Y., and S.H. Zarit. "Exploring Strategies to Alleviate Caregiver Burden: Effects of the National Long-Term Care Insurance Scheme in Japan." Psychogeriatrics 11.3 (2011): 183-89. Print.
Sundstrom, G., B. Malmberg, and L. Johansson. "Balancing family and state care: neither, either or both? The case of Sweden." Ageing and Society 26.05 (2006): 767-782. Print.
About the author: Journalist, medical researcher, speaker, and life coach, Eric L. Zielinski has been writing prolifically since 1998. Formerly trained as primary care provider and peer-review researcher, he has published an eclectic selection of health content for several print and online publications. Zielinski earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Wayne State University in 2002 and is currently wrapping up his Doctorate of Chiropractic at Life University along with a Masters of Public Health at Emory University. Visit his blog. Track his work on facebook. Read Eric's other naturalnews.com articles.
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