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Poll: Government should help Americans age at home

WASHINGTON (AP) — A majority of Americans agree that government should help people fulfill a widely held aspiration to age in their own homes, not institutional settings, a new poll finds.

There’s a surprising level of bipartisan agreement on some proposals that could help make that happen, according to the late March survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Still, Republicans lag Democrats in support of some policies, including the most far-reaching idea: Only 42% of Republicans favor a government long-term care insurance program for all Americans, compared with 78% of Democrats. Overall, 60% of the public supports that approach.

Other government options to help people deal with the costs of long-term care get solid support across the political spectrum.

For example, 63% favor more funding to help low-income people age at home, a policy reflected in President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan and his COVID-19 relief law. That includes about half of Republicans and about three-quarters of Democrats. Overall, only 10% are opposed.

There’s also bipartisan alignment about proposals involving public-private partnerships.

The poll found broad backing for facilitating the purchase of long-term care coverage through a supplemental insurance plan like Medicare Advantage (supported by 70% of Americans, including 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans) and for tax breaks to help purchase long-term care insurance (supported by 61%, including 64% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans).

Behind it all is a deep desire among Americans to maintain their independence in an aging society.

Contrary to common belief, Medicare does not cover long-term care. Relatively few people plan ahead, and it remains prohibitively expensive for most middle-class people. Nationally, nursing home care averages more than $100,000 a year. Home and community-based services can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Private long-term care insurance has failed to catch on because premiums are high and preexisting conditions restrictions apply.

“I’d like to age in place as long as I can,” said Steven Martens, of Nashville, Tennessee, retired from a career in banking. “It’s the privacy, the feeling of independence. That feeling that you are still taking care of yourself means something to me and others. We feel good about ourselves because we are still taking care of ourselves.”

The poll found that 88% would prefer to get long-term care services as they age at home or with loved ones. Just 12% would want to receive care in a senior community or nursing home.

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