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HHS Partners with Ohio and Pennsylvania to Raise Awareness On Planning for Long-Term Care

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Ohio and Pennsylvania will join a federal program created to increase the public’s awareness about the importance of long-term care (LTC) planning. 

The “Own Your Future” initiative, administered by HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Administration on Aging (AoA), and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), is designed to help Americans take an active role in planning ahead for their future long-term care needs. 

“This is an aggressive education and outreach effort designed to promote long-term care planning.  We are working closely with officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania and the other states already in the program to promote the importance of planning so all Americans will have the resources and information available to begin planning for their long-term care early on in life,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

The “Own Your Future” education effort includes information on various ways to finance one’s long-term care. “There’s a widespread misconception that Medicare pays for long-term care, but in fact, it only pays for very short term stays in skilled nursing facilities following discharge from a hospital,” said Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems.  “With the average monthly cost of a nursing home nearly $5,000, and stays that exceed several years, it’s critical for people to start planning while they still have the ability to choose the long-term care service and finance options that are best for them.” 

Approximately 13 million Americans needed long-term care in 2000. This number is expected to grow substantially in the next 30 years as the population ages. The Census Bureau estimates that the percentage of the population 65 and older will rise from 12.6 percent in 2000 to 20.5 percent in 2040, and the percentage of the population aged 85 and older will rise from 1.6 percent in 2000 to 3.8 percent in 2040. 

“These demographic changes point to a predictable increase in demand for long-term care services.  The support of each state is critical in helping us get the message out on planning for future care needs,” added Weems.

Ohio and Pennsylvania were chosen for the creativity of their complementary activities, the state resources available to further the “Own Your Future” campaign goals, and their ability to identify and incorporate partners beyond the participating state agencies.  One of Ohio’s enhancements to the program is offering free, in-home long-term care consultation, while Pennsylvania will establish an innovative, statewide long term living public education and outreach unit to provide information about the importance of LTC planning. 

This spring, governors of the two participating states will send letters to all households in the state with residents between the ages of 45-65.  The letters will address the importance of long-term care planning and encourage recipients to order a free Long-Term Care Planning Kit.  The kit features information about Medicare and Medicaid, ways to plan ahead, putting one’s legal affairs in order, and how to assess private financing options and state-specific resources. The letters will reach approximately 3.3 million households in the two states.

The “Own Your Future” initiative is part of an ongoing effort to increase awareness about what public long term-care programs actually pay for, the risks of needing long-term care services and how people can prepare to pay for their long-term care.  To date, over 11 million letters signed by governors in 16 states have been mailed to households with individuals in the target audience and from those letters more than 550,000 Long-Term Care Planning Kits have been mailed. “Better planning for long-term care is likely to increase people’s ability to remain at home with better use of their own resources, and may also reduce pressures on public programs,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina Carbonell.

Ohio and Pennsylvania were two of 11 applicants to join the current 16 states participating in the “Own Your Future” initiative.  The other participating states are Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 provides $3 million in 2008 to fund the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information (located at  This AoA-hosted Website is a collaborative effort among AoA, CMS, and ASPE that provides comprehensive information about long-term care planning, services and financing options, along with tools to help people begin the planning process.

“This Website is a great tool that can help people take personal responsibility when planning for their long-term care.  HHS is working hard to ensure we provide useful information so adults can make meaningful decisions for their own future aging needs,” Secretary Leavitt said.

“The initiative is designed to promote independence, choice, and dignity by giving Americans more control over their long-term care service delivery options,” said Acting CMS Administrator Weems. “We are supporting better options for financing long-term care, meaningful incentives that make planning attractive and increased awareness about what public programs pay and what Americans should plan to pay themselves.”

For additional resources on Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) coverage and for help finding and comparing SNFs, the booklet “Medicare Coverage of Skilled Nursing Facility Care” can be found at


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