Recent Op-Eds

Mark Twain once wrote, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." Many South Dakotans surely know, or are themselves, people who embody Twain's adage. Like many people my age, I am starting to consider exactly what these words mean as I discover a few new aches and pains that didn't exist a few years ago.

The truth is that growing older is one of the few guarantees in life, and many people will have the experience of needing some kind of long-term health care in their lifetime, such as assisted living. Providing the necessary level of care is one of several potential challenges that families face in helping older loved ones.

Earlier this month, I proudly joined Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) in introducing a resolution in honor of National Assisted Living Week. The resolution seeks to raise awareness of the good work that is being done in the area of long-term care and highlights services that are available to meet the specific needs of older Americans. It is my hope that seniors and those who care for them become aware of what health care resources are available in their community.

Older Americans make up an ever increasing percentage of the nation's population, and this is causing us to reevaluate our nation's long-term care system. It will be increasingly difficult for programs like Medicare and Medicaid to meet the costs of long-term care, which is why I think it is time to make it easier for Americans to plan for their own future long-term care needs.

I have introduced legislation this Congress that would make it easier for people to buy insurance to provide for their long-term health care needs. Younger South Dakotans may not be focused on the potential need for long-term care in the future, but younger people are usually in a better position to plan for it. However, long-term care insurance is costly. By providing additional tax incentives or allowing individuals to tap into 401(k)s and other savings accounts to purchase long-term care insurance, South Dakotans will have more choices for their care in the future, including assisted living, home health care, nursing home or even respite care.

Growing older comes with the happiness of grandchildren, family and friends. By giving people the opportunity to plan for long-term care, we can reduce the strain on families when it comes to caring for a loved one. Affordable long-term care insurance is one option that can help relieve the burden of long-term care planning and give people the flexibility and freedom they need to make the best decisions for their own health care future.