Planning early for long-term medical care will help prevent unwanted surprises for elderly Bay State residents, Gov. Deval Patrick said yesterday, announcing a new state program to help people start planning.
Planning early for long-term medical care will help prevent unwanted surprises for elderly Bay State residents, Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday, announcing a new state program to help people start planning.
Patrick and Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein introduced the new program at the Morse Institute Library. Massachusetts joins 24 other states in an initiative called "Embrace Your Future."
"Society so overemphasizes youth and the here and now, but it doesn't always emphasize planning and saving for long-term care," Patrick said.
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs is targeting people before they reach retirement age.
"None of us like to think we will be the one that needs long-term health care, but in reality it will be most of us," Hartstein said.
Sixty percent of seniors live with one or more chronic conditions, Hartstein said, and 80 percent will need some long-term support. Many times those are not covered by Medicare.
Most people would prefer to be at home, even if they need health care and other help, Hartstein said. If people wait until the last minute, however, they may not be prepared.
The Elders Affairs office sent out 400,000 letters to households across the state, Hartstein said, telling them about how to get a free guide for planning for long-term care.
State Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, said she is glad to see long-term care get some attention.
"This issue is very important, but it does tend to get ignored," Peisch said.
Many calls come into state Rep. David Linsky's office from people trying to figure out how to deal with long-term care for parents or friends, the Natick Democrat said.
"I get calls from constituents all the time," Linsky said. "I am no expert in this, so it is helpful to have this packet to give to people so they can get the information they need."
The governor's budget will be released today and Patrick said that local aid to towns and cities will be level-funded, and that the state will fully fund Chapter 70 school aid.
While those funds will be left relatively untouched, Patrick said the state is still in a dire financial situation.
"We could lay off every state worker and we would still have a billion plus dollar gap," Patrick said. "Revenue is gradually coming back."
Linsky, who serves as chairman of the Federal Stimulus Oversight Committee, said there is some hope for more stimulus money going to public schools.
"I don't think we will be able to be as generous as last year," Linsky said. "It will be available primarily for special education and Title I programs and some supplemental dollars.
"Also, there is still some hope we will see a second federal stimulus bill."
Patrick also yesterday discussed pension reforms, which would close loopholes in the public retirement system. The changes are the second set to be made, he said, and include capping annual benefits at $85,000, and increasing the retirement age for many public sector workers.
"Most of these (retirement ages) were put in place 60 years ago," Patrick said. "Life expectancy is greater now and people are more active and in better health."
The pension changes are expected to save the state $2 billion over the next 30 years, according to the Patrick administration.
The long-term care information packet can be found on the Internet and downloaded at www.800ageinfo.com, and can be ordered at www.longtermcar.gov/campaign or by calling 1-866-PLAN-LC (752-6582). TTY users should call 1-800-427-5605.
Charlie Breitrose can be reached at 508-626-3964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.