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Amy Traub

Letter to the Editor of the Week!

Today's Letter to the Editor of the Week comes from an unlikely source: the New York Times Sunday Styles Section. The writer makes an insightful point about the estate tax and the middle-class squeeze:

Another Inheritance 'Tax'
To the Editor:

Re: "Stop Spending My Inheritance" by Bob Morris (July 30):

I still don't get it. The current administration pushes for a repeal of the estate tax so a lucky few can inherit sizable sums.

Yet, when it comes to the middle class, an inheritance from their parents can easily be wiped out by the gargantuan cost of long-term care. Shouldn't the administration's focus be on reducing costs of long-term care so the middle class can inherit, too?

Louise S. Albenda

Ms. Albenda hits on a key part of the middle-class squeeze that will only become more more pressing as our society ages -- affording long-term care. The AARP estimates that the average monthly cost of care for an elderly person with a disability is $2,924 a month if they remain at home or $4,000 a month for care in a nursing home. This expense can quickly drain the assets of a middle-class retiree and impose a steep financial burden on their adult children.

There is clearly demand for public response to this dilemma. The already over-burdened Medicaid program, intended for the poor, faces an additional strain from middle-class retirees who, anxious to leave something to their children, have tried to transfer their assets to their families first and then claim Medicaid benefits for long-term care. At the end of July, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid acted to crack down on the practice, while encouraging more Americans to buy long-term care insurance. But this seems like an inadequate solution.

There are no easy answers for the familial and societal challenges of meeting the expense of long-term care, but Ms. Albenda is right to point out that a government genuinely concerned about the desire of ordinary senior citizens to pass down an inheritance to their children and grandchildren would focus less on repealing taxes on multi-million dollar estates and instead direct resources toward helping more Americans afford the care they need in old age.

We salute you, Louise Albenda!

Amy Traub: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:15 PM, Aug 07, 2006 in Health Care | Letter To The Editor of the Week | Middle-class squeeze | Tax Policy | pensions
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