Home Instead Senior Care, Birmingham

Paul Hogan's editorial piece in the AJC

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Paul Hogan, founder of the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network worldwide, wrote editorial piece that is running in today’s Atlanta Constitution.


Senior care a major economic player
By Paul Hogan
The effort to rein in galloping health care costs — which no less a figure than Warren Buffett has described as “a tapeworm eating at our economic body” — is rarely mentioned in the same sentence with job creation. In fact, most policymakers probably assume the two goals are on a collision course.
It doesn’t have to be that way. To deal with its exploding population of senior citizens, the nation will need to add millions of new jobs in the years ahead. If Washington approaches this phenomenon wisely, the U.S. can reap the benefits of that job growth without sending the health care bill spiraling.
The first of the baby boomers turn 65 next year. At 78 million strong, they will make tremendous demands for several decades on the senior-care system. To meet this surge, the nation must add doctors, nurses, technicians, social workers, administrators and home-care attendants.
Senior care is, when seen properly, a growth market for jobs. Washington should welcome this development, not attempt to squelch it.
I understand, of course, that the nation’s health care costs must be curbed. But the way to go about that is to clamp down on waste and abuse, from costly and unnecessary medical procedures to fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.
Senior care isn’t in that category. As long as it is honestly and efficiently delivered, it is an absolutely necessary expense, and policymakers make a dangerous error when they fail to distinguish it from what must be cut.
I also understand that government alone cannot bear the cost of caring for the senior population. After all, by 2025, the number of people over 65 will be 72 million, nearly double what it was in 2000. Annual cost will run into hundreds of billions.
But there is an obvious solution: a partnership between the public sector — government — and the private sector — businesses, nonprofits and charitable organizations.
Washington should offer incentives and subsidies to drive the private sector’s activities while continuing to provide its safety net of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. State and local governments that operate public hospitals, agencies for the aging and senior centers should continue those services too.
The private sector should shoulder pretty much everything else. And, in fact, it does a lot of that now, far more than most Americans probably realize — from running profit and nonprofit hospitals, to home-care agencies, to retirement and assisted living communities, to hospices.
But the private side of the senior-care system isn’t growing fast enough to meet the coming need. That’s why the public sector should step in with incentives and subsidies.
It’s a win-win-win situation. A growing elder-care industry will create millions of jobs, generating income- and sales-tax revenues for cash-strapped governments. It will relieve government of the full cost of caring for the senior boomers. And it will make it possible for seniors to age with care, dignity and comfort.
How big is the potential senior-care job market? To cite just two of many categories, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing estimates than in the next 15 years the nation will need to add 260,000 nurses. The number of new home-care workers required in just the next six years is 1 million.
Washington can take many steps to stimulate this job growth, for example:
● Low interest loans for students specializing in geriatric care.
● Tax credits for graduates who pledge to work in underserved regions of the country.
● Creation of a Senior Corps similar to the Peace Corps and Americorps.
● Tax credits for long-term-care insurance policies that cover affordable options like home care.
● A public education campaign to help seniors make the wisest and most affordable choices.
That last point is a special concern. A survey sponsored by my company found a disturbing lack of information among seniors and their adult children about care options and their costs. The danger is that poorly informed people will make choices that are both too expensive — for example, a high-cost nursing home instead of low-cost home care — and wrong for their stage in the aging process.
The first step is for policymakers to understand that quality senior care and job creation are a perfect match. The realization is bound to dawn eventually — demanding boomers will see to that. So why wait? Start now.

Paul Hogan is CEO of Home Instead Senior Care and with his wife, Lori, co-author of “Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions.”


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