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Imagine yourself in a room with 100 persons, all age sixty. Of the group, fifty-three are women and forty-seven are men. Racially and ethnically they mirror the population of Americans age sixty. Now answer the question: "Before the 100 die, how many will require long-term care and, on the average, for how many days and at what cost?" Give up? So do I. While it is common knowledge that many of us will need long-term care, no one seems to know how many will need such care or for how long. And some of you will ask, 'What do you mean by 'long-term care?'" Here again, there is no consistent answer. Certainly, care provided in a nursing home and probably in an assisted living facility qualifies as long-term care, but are all residents of board and care homes receiving long-term care?

And what of those receiving assistance from a spouse? How much assistance is needed to be considered long-term care? What of the elderly who live with a child or a relative? Surely some do so because of the need for care, but not all. We have no knowledge of how many elderly who live with another do so primarily to receive assistance or care. Other elderly live alone and contract for care in their home, but here too we have no idea of the number. Other forms of care may or may not qualify as providing long-term care. For example, is adult day care long-term care? Are the elderly, who spend some or all of the day at a senior services center, recipients of long-term care or just lonely individuals in search of companionship and a good meal?

There they are, those 100 persons, without a clue as to whether they need long-term care or how much it might cost them. All they know for certain is that they face a potential risk that could bankrupt many of them. In this essay I address the dire need for and obvious advantages of subsidized, mandatory long-term care insurance as a solution for their dilemma - and for yours and mine.