HONOLULU — Hawaii may be getting ready to spend half a million dollars to remind its aging population: start saving now for long-term care.
Lawmakers on Tuesday considered a $7.1 million Senate bill for elder care and education (SB2346). If passed, it will put $4.2 million toward the state’s kupuna (elder) care program and $1.9 million toward the disability resource center. It will also pay for a $500,000 public education campaign to encourage Hawaii residents to plan for their long-term care.
By 2035, according to the bill, nearly a third of Hawaii residents will be older than 60. Hawaii’s private nursing homes are on average the most expensive in the nation, with a median annual cost of $145,000, said Bruce Bottorff, a spokesman for AARP Hawaii, which offered testimony in support of the bill.
“Governments are limited in the help they can provide,” Bottorff said. “Medicare is limited. It was never set up to handle long-term care.”
Yet many people in Hawaii assume they will be covered. A 2012 report by the Hawaii Long-Term Care Commission cited an AARP survey in which 29 percent of respondents in Hawaii said they expected Medicare to cover their long-term care.
The costs of aging weigh heavily on the Hawaii legislature this year. The bill is part of a package the Democrat majorities in the Senate and House presented, aimed at protecting the health and prosperity of seniors. Also considered in the Health and Human Services Committee were bills to establish an Alzheimer’s and dementia services program (SB2434) and a bill requiring minimum sentences for felonies committed against people age 60 or older (SB2507).
Hawaii has already taken steps to cover its seniors. The kupuna care program pays organizations such as Meals on Wheels and Catholic Charities to provide services for older people who don’t qualify for Medicaid. Next year, Bottorff said, the state may, on the recommendation on the Hawaii Long-Term Care Commission, consider setting up accounts for workers in Hawaii to save for long-term care. Hawaii would be the first state to set up such accounts, he said.