“Letter To The Editor”: Long Term Care for the Poor


In our August 19, 1996, Elder Law Issues, we reported on recent changes in federal law which will make it a crime to give away assets (in some circumstances) to qualify for Medicaid long-term care eligibility (ALTCS in Arizona). For another perspective on the issue, consider the comments of one of our readers.

Tucson businessman Bruce Ash has given careful consideration to the larger problem of society paying for long-term care costs. In a letter to Elder Law Issues, he writes:

“Health care professionals are facing a staggering task today as the cost of providing health care to America’s aging continues to rise. Not only are Americans living longer, but due to their advanced age many are presenting themselves at hospitals and long term care facilities with multiple illnesses and oftentimes little or no funds (or insurance) to pay the bills.

“Most of the elderly poor I have become familiar with over the past several years have honestly spent down their modest assets and are truly indigent. As a witness to the efforts of the Jewish and Catholic community’s efforts to provide charity care to the elderly poor, I am proud to report that Tucsonans provide millions of dollars to support charity healthcare every year through their generous gifts.

“There are some, however, who along with their family members and advisors have used the system to gain unfair advantage to all those who are truly in need. If this practice were to gain acceptance in Tucson as it has elsewhere it would cause great financial distress for hospital and long term care facilities alike.

“Is the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill the answer? Who knows. But, what I do know is that if America does not come to grips with the overall issue of elder healthcare soon we will certainly face national crisis by the time most of those born from 1945-1965 come of age. We do very little to defuse the ticking bomb unless we develop new, revolutionary ideas to better serve elder Americans in need. The medical, legal, religious, legislative and insurance fields must come together to design cost effective and humane models to deliver prevention, health and living environments which will substitute for the bloated and short sighted way we are dealing with the elderly today. The time has arrived where we must begin putting our heads together to solve this issue instead of skirting it with fancy legal footwork. I hope you will agree as Americans we are up the challenge.”

Thank you, Bruce, for your thoughtful comments. Indeed, we agree that Americans are up to the challenge; now we need to devote our collective energy to finding that solution.

Your comments and contributions are always welcome, and we hope to hear from more of you on this difficult subject.

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