Crisis coming in elder care, AARP warns
Residents pessimistic about health care in state
STORY SUMMARY »
The number of people age 65 and older in Hawaii is expected to grow by 86 percent between now and 2030.
So says a survey by AARP Hawaii, which urges prompt action to avoid a crisis in long-term care for seniors.
"If nothing is done in the very near future, like right now, to begin addressing these issues in a substantive, systematic way, we're going to find ourselves with an essentially insolvable problem," said Bruce Bottorff, AARP Hawaii associate state director.
AARP Hawaii is urging the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 3255 with $250,000 to create a commission that would determine resources needed to meet long-term care policy goals.
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Nearly 60 percent of isle residents believe the state's health and long-term care services are in crisis or are suffering major problems, says an AARP Hawaii report released today.
The findings are based on a detailed survey of 1,043 registered voters as young as 18 who were queried about health-care access, costs, insurance coverage and long-term care solutions.
"Hawaii is unique in that health care issues are exacerbated by geographical limitations inherent in having multiple islands with varying levels of providers and services," the report points out. Compounding the health-care plight, Hawaii's rapidly growing age 65-and-older population is predicted to increase 86 percent from 2007 to 2030, it said.
"Given our isolation and our unique problems over here, Hawaii is going to be a very interesting laboratory for whether any state can solve the problems of their elderly," Stuart Ho, AARP Hawaii state president, said in an interview.
"It's never too late to get things moving that needed to be moved a long time ago," he said. "But as we call it a silent crisis, it really is exactly that." Although local people recognize it is a crisis, he said, "we need more attention paid to it by people who make policy for us."
AARP Hawaii is urging the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 3255, which calls for $250,000 to establish a commission that would determine what resources are needed to meet long-term care public policy goals and recommend a program and means of funding.
"I wouldn't blame people about feeling cynical about another commission," Ho said. But, he said, "Nobody I know can tell me, What's the plan for the elderly in Hawaii?
"This is one time I think people have got to take this job seriously. My hope is, if the bill passes, the Legislature is going to put some people on the commission who have some experience in this and can be effective."
He said action must be taken before large numbers of baby boomers start retiring. "The consequences of doing nothing are unimaginable."
Bruce Bottorff, AARP Hawaii associate state director, echoed Ho's concerns: "If nothing is done in the very near future, like right now, to begin addressing these issues in a substantive, systematic way, we're going to find ourselves with an essentially insolvable problem."
The report says that long-term care costs about $16,000 a year in Hawaii for two hours of daily care in the home, and about $107,000 a year for nursing home care.
County-by-county information in the new survey confirms many things already known about health care in Hawaii, Bottorff said, such as significant differences in meeting health needs depending on which island or part of an island people live.
Almost six in 10, or about 57 percent, of people surveyed statewide said health and long-term care are in crisis. Residents of the Big Island -- which has a critical physician shortage -- expressed the greatest dissatisfaction.
Bottorff said AARP is working on a federal level for solutions to the health and long-term care crisis, as well as with county and state representatives.
He said solutions will require "across-the-board cooperation and consensus" from all officials responsible for developing public policy, as well as families, individuals, businesses and community organizations.
AARP Hawaii commissioned the study and worked on it with AARP Knowledge, an AARP research arm in Washington, D.C.
Joanne Binette and Erica Dinger of AARP Knowledge wrote the report.
Survey on Health care in Hawaii
Highlights of a 2008 Hawaii Health and Long-term Care Survey of 1,043 registered voters conducted for AARP Hawaii:
» More than half, 56 percent, say access and cost of health care are their primary concerns for the next five years.
» Three in four, 75 percent, report paying out-of-pocket medical expenses in the past five years, and 51 percent said it was difficult.
» More than one-third of residents traveled off island to receive health care they could not get in their community (49 percent in Kona; 45 percent, Maui; 42 percent, Hilo; 40 percent, Kauai; and 6 percent, Honolulu).
» Big Island residents expressed the most concern about Hawaii's health care being in crisis -- 29 percent, Kona; 24 percent, Hilo; 14 percent, Kauai; 9 percent, Maui; and 8 percent, Honolulu.
» About six in 10 residents surveyed say they cannot afford one year of long-term care.
» About 73 percent worry about being able to get long-term care in a setting of their choice.
» Big Island residents (50 percent in Kona and 42 percent in Hilo) are more worried than those in Honolulu (32 percent) about receiving long-term care where they choose.
» About 78 percent of people surveyed, or eight in 10, support AARP Hawaii's call for increased funding for long-term care services to help people stay in their own homes or communities.
» About six in 10 residents say they would pay a small monthly premium to receive quality long-term care services.
On the 'Net:
The survey will be available at www.aarp.org/hiltc after 9 a.m. today.