The Beat Report

ASHA-supported bills still pending in Congress Several noteworthy bills that will affect seniors housing are pending in Congress. The bills include the Seniors Access to Continuing Care Act of 1999, the Johnson-Thurman Bill, and the Health Care Accessibility and Equity Act. Congress is likely to act upon both pieces of proposed legislation before the end of the year.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced the Seniors Access bill in June. The bill would prevent a managed care organization (MCO) from forcing residents of continuing care retirement communities or assisted-living residences to move to a long-term care facility that is part of the MCO's network in order to receive services covered by the managed care plan. The MCO would have to pay for services it would cover otherwise even if the MCO does not have a contract with a resident's assisted-living or continuing care community. The American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) has come out in support of the bill, which currently has six sponsors in the Senate.

ASHA also supports the Health Care Accessibility Act. Introduced in late June by Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), Sen. Rod Gramms (R-Minn.) and Sen. Spence Abraham (R-Mich.), the act would make long-term care more affordable by allowing taxpayers to fully deduct the cost of long-term care insurance premiums. It also would include tax deductions on health insurance premiums for the self-employed.

The Johnson-Thurman Bill, introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Rep. Karen Thurman (D-Fla.), would offer a phased-in, 100% tax deduction for private long-term care insurance premiums. Long-term care insurance premiums would be deductible for those paying at least 50% of the cost of a tax-qualified policy. Premiums would be 50% deductible the first year, with deduction growing by 10% each year until 100% deductible. The bill also would allow people who buy private long-term care insurance to disregard some assets when applying for Medicaid without having those assets subject to recovery by the state at death.

ASHA executive director David Schless says the managed care industry obviously opposes the bills, and passage of the bills as stand-alone bills is slim, However, passage of these bills as amendments to any managed care reform legislation is likely, and action can be expected before the end of the year.

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