It just keeps getting worse doesn’t it? I’m talking about the economy and our federal, state and local governments’ inability to balance their budgets and provide the services and assistance they have provided in the past and promise to provide in the future. And is why you can’t expect the government to bail you out.
The latest example is not about long term care but the parallels are there. The State of New Jersey established a fund to help homeowners remove rusted and leaking underground storage tanks that contaminate the soil. 5 years ago the fund had $90 million. Now there is nothing. But it’s the reason why there is nothing left that gets me. The fund ran out of money in part because it was spent on other things that had nothing to do with removing underground storage tanks and in part because too many people were made eligible. As a result, 1300 people seeking grants or loans to help pay for cleanup will have to wait at least a year and no new requests will considered until 2014. Of course, there is nothing preventing the State from extending either of those timelines, making residents wait even longer.
Meanwhile, leaky tanks will continue to leak and the State environmental agency can, by law, hold the residents responsible for the spill. It’s commissioner has said that in some cases, where the homeowner doesn’t have the money to pay for the removal and it can’t wait, then the State will go in and clean it up and then put a lien on the property for the cost of that cleanup. What does that tell you about whether any funds will be available next year, 2014 or any time? All the chairman of the Senate environmental committee could say is that they will conduct an investigation as to what happened to all the money and why no one told them sooner. Great.
What has this got to do with long term care? Nothing and everything. Certainly environmental and long term care issues couldn’t be more different. What is important, however, is to pay attention to what the government is, or in this case, is not, doing for its citizens, especially where it made certain promises. The State isn’t beyond changing the rules in the middle of the game and breaking its promises.
And that’s the lesson to be learned here. Long term care is a huge problem. The government is a part of the solution. But, it has in the past, and will most certainly again in the future, change the rules. If you aren’t prepared for the possibility of needing long term care and expect the government to be the answer, you’d better rethink it. Look what happened with a small program to remove underground tanks. Don’t think it won’t happen with a program like Medicaid. It will. That’s why it’s so important to get your ducks lined up now, have a plan and a backup plan in place. Because what the government provides you today may be very different than what is willing to provide you tomorrow. You’d better know how you will respond.