The California Legislature Awakens
Last April 7th, I was able to attend a Joint Informational Hearing in the Capitol in Sacramento on long term care services and supports. The hearing consisted of three committees of the California Legislature: The Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Cherryl Brown of San Bernadino, the Senate Committee on Human Services, chaired by Senator Mike McGuire of Sonoma, and the Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long Term Care, chaired by Senator Carol Liu of Glendale.
I mention the chairpersons because they are important contacts if you are a California agent and want to get involved in this legislative process. It’s one thing to bemoan our problems in California and another to be pro-active in changing them. It will take a concerted effort by many to make long term care insurance a viable product in California again.
This hearing was a major effort by some sixteen members of the Legislature to get their arms around long term care issues. They were totally aware of the financial tsunami awaiting the State in the next fifteen to twenty years if they continue to kick the financial can down the road. They were also totally aware of the dysfunctional system of caregiving in California and the stresses the system will undergo as needs grow over time.
An impressive group of experts had been invited to testify. First, Bruce Chernof, CEO of the SCAN Foundation, discussed financing issues. His conclusion was that the current long term care insurance products are not working…they are hard to underwrite, unaffordable for many, difficult to understand, and have unstable premiums. He discussed five modelling solutions, including a private/public plan and a Medicare Part E.
Next, Bonnie Burns of California Health Advocates gave an excellent comprehensive historical analysis. She emphasized that little was being done for the middle class and that a better system must be designed to keep people at home.
Third, Donald Redfoot of AARP gave a broad dissertation of the current obstacles and opportunities. He emphasized the huge number of family caregivers, forty-two million, and said that the total cost of long term care is now $ 450 billion.
Then, a number of caregiving specialists discussed the impacts on families. Next, Claudia Crist and Brenda Bufford outlined the work of the California Partnership for Long Term Care. Finally, Olivia Mastry of Leading Age discussed current state initiatives in Minnesota, Hawaii, and Washington. The Committee showed great interest in taking field trips to those states to learn more.
The hearing took close to three hours, with the assembly people and senators coming in and out of the meeting as other obligations interfered. My impression was that the members of the committees must have been overwhelmed by the breadth and complexity of the presentations. To them, this must have been a confusing opening round of fact gathering which would last months and maybe even years before they would feel comfortable writing bills and getting the bills out of their committees. But nevertheless, it was an impressive beginning.
At the end, an exhausted Chairwomen Brown asked for public testimony, as is required in these types of hearings. I had been in contact with her staff person, Robert MacLaughlin, and was reluctantly recognized. I seized my opportunity and was able to give testimony for six minutes and become part of the public record. You can find the recording on www.sen.ca.gov under Media and Media Archive. Or, you can get the summary in my next blog.