Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Otter should have said

    In Hailey last week, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter criticized government programs for the elderly. He said they have removed personal family responsibility and have led to “warehousing” of seniors.
    The comment was more Planet Otter nonsense­, utterly detached from what really goes on in the United States of America on Planet Earth, where younger family members have no choice but to work outside the home and may live somewhere far from aging relatives.
    The comment was stunning, especially given that Otter said his own mother is in an assisted-living facility.
    Shouldn’t the governor then, even rich and privileged as he is, be staying away from his rotunda office to fulfill his personal responsibilities? Or is such responsibility just for people outside his tax bracket?
    Instead of criticizing families desperately trying to protect their elders by enlisting the aid of continuing-care compounds, rehabilitation centers, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, Otter should have promised to find ways for struggling Idaho families to find better ways to confidently afford to care for their aging loved ones.
    Otter’s so-called “warehousing” isn’t cheap. For example, the median annual cost of skilled-nursing-home care in a private room is now a whopping $87,600 a year.
    The median entry fee for a continuing care retirement community is $211,625, plus $33,900 in annual fees.
    All of that doesn’t include the $220,000 median a couple that retired at 65 would need to cover medical costs over their remaining lifetimes.
    Otter’s comment was not only insensitive and detached from the real world of ordinary Idahoans who know the numbers for good elder care are daunting. It was insulting to families who grapple with painful and often unsatisfactory choices as they travel the fear-fraught paths of aging in America.

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