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J Aging Soc Policy. 2001;13(2-3):35-51.

Long-term care policy and financing as a public or private matter in the United States.

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Asian Community Center, 7801 Rush River Drive, Sacramento, CA 95831, USA.


Effective approaches to assure adequate resources, infrastructure, and broad societal support to address chronic care needs are volatile and potentially unpopular issues that can result in many losers (those getting far less than they want) and few winners (those who gain access to scarce societal resources for care). In the United States, debates on long-term care involve a complex set of issues and services that link health, social services (welfare), and economic policies that often pit public and private sector interests and values against one another. Yet long-term care policies fill a necessary function in society to clarify roles, expectations, and functions of public, non-profit, for profit, individual, and family sectors of a society. By assessing and developing policy proposals that include all long-term care system dimensions, a society can arrive at systematic, fair, and rational decisions. Limiting decisions to system financing aspects alone is likely to result in unforeseen or unintended effects in a long-term care system that stopgap "fixes" cannot resolve. Three underlying policy challenges are presented: the need for policymakers to consider whether the public sector is the first or last source of payment for long-term care; whether government is seen primarily as a risk or cost manager; and the extent to which choice is afforded to elders and family caregivers with regard to the types, settings, and amount of long-term care desired to complement family care.

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