AP-NORC poll: Government should help Americans age at home

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FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2021, file photo Edouard Joseph, 91, right, clasps his hands as geriatrician Megan Young, left, prepares to give him a COVID-19 vaccination at his home in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston. A majority of Americans agree that government should help people fulfill a widely held aspiration to age in their own homes, not institutional settings, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans agree that government should help people fulfill a widely held aspiration to age in their own homes, not institutional settings, a new poll finds.

There's a surprising level of bipartisan agreement on some proposals that could help make that happen, according to the late March survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Still, Republicans lag Democrats in support of some policies, including the most far-reaching idea: Only 42% of Republicans favor a government long-term care insurance program for all Americans, compared with 78% of Democrats. Overall, 60% of the public supports that approach.

Other government options to help people deal with the costs of long-term care get solid support across the political spectrum.

For example, 63% favor more funding to help low-income people age at home, a policy reflected in President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan and his COVID-19 relief law. That includes about half of Republicans and about three-quarters of Democrats. Overall, only 10% are opposed.

There's also bipartisan alignment about proposals involving public-private partnerships.

The poll found broad backing for facilitating the purchase of long-term care coverage through a supplemental insurance plan like Medicare Advantage (supported by 70% of Americans, including 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans) and for tax breaks to help purchase long-term care insurance (supported by 61%, including 64% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans).

Behind it all is a deep desire among Americans to maintain their independence in an aging society.

Contrary to common belief, Medicare does not cover long-term care. Relatively few people plan ahead, and it remains prohibitively expensive for most middle-class people. Nationally, nursing home care averages more than $100,000 a year. Home and community-based services can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Private long-term care insurance has failed to catch on because premiums are high and preexisting conditions restrictions apply.