There’s a crisis out there and it is coming for everyone regardless of politics…

But, how you vote definitely will make a difference. Trumpers may want to rethink what really poses a threat to them. It’s not folks of color, environmentalists or immigrants.

By Rich Heiland, Columnist, The Times

THERE IS A huge health care crisis looming in the U.S. and if you are a Trump supporter, you may want to start paying attention to it, regardless of your age.

The crisis is one I might have overlooked had I not had the misfortune to become personally involved. My wife of 56 years, Connie, has dementia. I have been chronicling our journey through this dark territory in another blog, intodementia.com.

Here is the crisis in a nutshell. There are roughly eight million Americans experiencing some level of dementia this year and that number is expected to grow sharply in coming years. But it’s not just dementia in play. As more and more Baby Boomers age other health problems come into play that require more than “two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

Stroke, heart attacks, crippling arthritis, diabetes, blindness, deafness – all conditions that require some level of home care, or institutional care.

None of these conditions have any awareness of political positions. They are a part of the human condition. But they will impact families differently, and much of that difference comes down to economics.

Here is the hard cold cash reality. My wife’s new home in a memory care unit, in a nice facility, costs just north of $10,000 a month, or $120,000-plus a year. Even though we felt we were “set” for an enjoyable retirement, we can’t afford that.

But we count ourselves as lucky because years ago we took out a long-term care policy. It will cover 75 percent of our costs and run about seven years. At that point, if my wife survives that long, we will begin going through our savings and investments at a rapid rate and could end up broke.

WE ARE NOT alone. A recent research study found that something like 70-plus percent of Americans over 60 will need some form of long-term care in coming years. That same study found that 80 percent said they could not afford it.

That’s a crisis. I gave you our reality a couple of paragraphs ago. It doesn’t really matter what care option you choose. Home care? A friend is looking at paying $300 a day, which does not include overnight. Do the math. If she opts for only five days that’s $1,500 a week or $78,000 a year. Insurance, like Medicare, doesn’t cover it.

What if you or a loved one needs full-blown nursing care in a facility? That can run between $15,000 and $20,000 a month depending on where you live. At the high end that would be $240,000 without insurance. Your basic medical insurance, whether private or Medicare, does not cover that.

The crisis? According to the World Population Review the average household income in the U.S. for the first part of 2024 was $87,000. In terms of savings most Americans are woefully unprepared for a crisis of any kind. Folks 75 and older on average had $60,000 saved, while those 65-74 had $58,000. Younger people, under 35, had an average of $11,250.

When it comes to pure retirement savings, in 2022 those 65-74 had $610,000 and 75 and older had $462,000. That’s not going to go far even if the person remains healthy. Add in the sorts of costs we have been talking about and those funds take you only a few months.

Slice and dice the numbers any way you want. The vast majority of Americans can’t come close to affording any sort of long-term home or institutional care.

But wait, you might say, “I see all these commercials for really nice places with happy smiling seniors.” Yes. Yes, you do. But you are seeing upper middle class to wealthy happy seniors. You are seeing the Country Club set. The people in the ads are not the ones needing around-the-clock care. Yet.

The places in the ads generally want you to put down upfront cash. It can range from $50,000 to $250,000. Then, if you are living independently, you will pay anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 a month. Those costs can vary widely state-to-state, community-to-community. If you need to shift to assisted living, add a few grand more and if you need nursing care add some more. Now you get to that $250,000. It’s a drawdown if you run out of ready cash. Some places have “care funds” they will draw on and are Medicaid-certified, so you won’t get kicked out. But others don’t and when the money is gone, so are you.

So, what happens if the person under care needs Medicaid? Does the spouse lose his/her assets? It’s complicated and will vary from state to state and you will need a lawyer. To a degree, the assets of the healthy spouse can be protected but again, it’s a maze.

BUT THIS JUST involves old folks, right? No. I live in Pennsylvania which has a “filial responsibility” law. This law means that the adult children of indigent parents can be held responsible for their medical and care bills. Didn’t know that? Most people don’t.

So, if mom or dad goes broke while in care, it’s possible you will have to tell Little Susie she can’t go to college, that her college fund is now going to Green Acres Retirement Home. Think you are set for your own retirement? Oops. That money may go to mom or dad’s nursing home or other health-care creditors.

  It’s not just Pennsylvania. Thirty states now have these laws.

Are you getting the picture? Health care in the U.S., compared with the rest of the truly developed countries in the world, is a travesty. It is a crapshoot of where you work to how much you make to how healthy you stay. It is based entirely on a profit-model, mostly for insurance companies and other medical suppliers (though not doctors and nurses).

At present, with a dysfunctional Congress and one political party that does not believe in any sort of assistance for those in need, it’s not likely to get better.

So, why did I start out talking about Trump voters? If you look at demographics they are going to be hit hard by this very real crisis. Bubba may be worried about government taking his gun, but maybe he ought to be worried about creditors taking his pick-up truck, house, ranchette, boat…whatever.

Trump is backed by the very sorts of companies and people who are profiting from this crisis. They don’t want change. In. fact, he is lifted up by average folks who will be devastated at some point by this crisis.

TODAY IT SEEMS a lot of Trump voters are motivated by who they hate and fear – Blacks, Browns, Yellows, Queerfolk, immigrants, commies, socialists, non-Christians, environmentalists. In reality, all the things they hate and fear don’t really pose a threat to them.

This crisis, though, poses a very real and direct threat. Health care costs could be the fo that breaks them, and their children. Yet they are supporting a candidate and party that plans to do absolutely nothing about it. In fact, if you read the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, they plan to make it worse if they control the White House and Congress.

Trumpers don’t read what I write so if you know a Trumper, maybe you should forward this to them. This crisis is real. It’s here. It’s going to get worse. And it doesn’t give a damn who you are. The only way to avert it is to have a major sea-change in U.S. health care.

Consider yourself warned and vote accordingly.

         Rich Heiland, has been a reporter, editor, publisher/general manager at daily papers in Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and New Hampshire. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Xenia Daily (OH) Daily Gazette, a National Newspaper Association Columnist of the Year, and a recipient of the Molly Ivins First Amendment Award from the Walker County (TX) Democrat Club. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University and leadership and community development at Woodbury College in Vermont.  Since 1995 he has operated an international consulting, public speaking and training business specializing in customer service, general management, leadership and staff development with major corporations, organizations, and government. Semi-retired, he and his wife live in West Chester, PA. He can be reached at heilandrich1@gmail.com.

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