An Interview With Larry Minnix, AAHSA

EXPERT OPINION: An Interview with...Larry Minnix, President and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

In this “Expert Opinion” interview, Larry Minnix details AAHSA’s proposal to dramatically alter the way America approaches and finances long-term health care for the elderly.

Larry Minnix is President and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a position he has held since 2001. Dr. Minnix has been in mental health and aging services fields for over 35 years. He was associated with the Wesley Woods Center of Emory University for 28 years, where he started as an administrative intern in 1972 and rose to the position of CEO, a position he held for 10 years until he joined AAHSA. Wesley Woods is a comprehensive aging services organization, with acute, outpatient, outreach, housing, and nursing home care within the academic context of Emory University. Dr. Minnix is a frequent speaker on long term care, quality, ethics, and policy. He has served on numerous commissions and boards. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University, received his Doctor of Ministry degree there and is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

Contact:
Larry Minnix
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Association of Homes and Service for the Aging
2519 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-1520
(202) 783-2242

Listen now   Recorded October 22, 2007
Interview Transcript:
Senior Living Business Editor Jane Zarem interviews Larry Minnix, President and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Jane Zarem:
We’re talking with Larry Minnix, President and CEO of AAHSA, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Larry, you’ve said that long-term care needs to be financed entirely differently than it is, or in most cases isn’t, financed today. What’s the problem with long-term care financing?

Larry Minnix:
The problem is that models, largely funded through Medicaid, are not sustainable. And policy leaders, far and wide, and virtually every study I’ve seen says that [with] Medicaid, which is viewed as the number one payer for long-term care, we can’t afford to do what we’re doing.

Now, if you add to that the hidden burden that families are already sharing around paying out-of-pocket for long-term care, you’ve got a huge need. The late Senator Claude Pepper and some of his work, his commission, concluded that long-term care is an insurable event. And we’ve spent the last 30 years not insuring for it.

Jane Zarem:
Why is addressing it so important now?

Larry Minnix:
It’s so important now because, personally, in families, 80% of the nursing home care goes on in families’ homes. And if you look at the staggering numbers of billions of dollars of lost cost associated with work, where families take off from work, if you look at the billions of dollars that families are paying out-of-pocket, it is time to address this issue. We can’t keep letting this problem build.

Jane Zarem:
Can you explain the solution that you have in mind, specifically, the National Insurance Trust, and tell us how that would work.

Larry Minnix:
Well, the idea, and we’re far from the mechanics of it, is there would be an independent organization that would make sure that we have an actuarially sound approach that cannot be subject to political decisions or ideological decisions or I guess provider-centric decisions. So the money ought to be put in trust and overseen by a group of people who do not have conflicts of interest about it. And they need to be able to certify to the nation that there’s enough money coming in to cover the needs of people as they need to tap those benefits.

Jane Zarem:
And individuals would contribute to this.

Larry Minnix:
That’s right, every able-bodied person that’s working would contribute a little bit every day. We say, for the cost of a cup of coffee, we can have a financially viable, actuarially sound program that’s fair—people are not excluded because of pre-existing conditions—and is fair in terms of the basic benefits that they receive.

Jane Zarem:
How would the trust be administered? Is it by the government, the federal government, the state government or private insurers?

Larry Minnix:
Well, we think it should be an independent trust chartered by Congress, but set aside in a mechanism where the money cannot be politicized or used for other purposes.

Jane Zarem:
And what kind of cultural transformation will be required for this idea to be accepted by consumers, by healthcare providers, insurers and the politicians?

Larry Minnix:
Well, it’s a great question and that’s what we’re going to try to find out in the next couple of years. What we’re trying to do right now is define the problem, lay out a solution that we know we can back up. And then begin the consciousness-raising by the public. And there are studies and polls and so forth now that show that many, many families in this country understand this problem. They shoulder their responsibility. They don’t have the help that they need, but they don’t complain much. So what we want to do is tap into that experience to say, “Wait a minute, there’s a way to deal with this.”

It plays positively into the spirit in America of responsibility for self and family. So that’s very positive. It plays into our values about doing things in a fair and just way. It plays into our values about how communities want to take care of their own. And it plays into our self-determinism that we all have of “I want to live at home. I want things done my way.”

So we think the plan plays into everything that’s positive about the American spirit. Then you have to separate out anyone who’d say, “Oh, well, this is … ” and put some kind of characterization on it that it’s not.

So in the next couple of years, we want to get these issues on the table, in the national consciousness.

Jane Zarem:
Okay, thank you, we’ll keep our eyes open for some positive activity on this in the near future.

Larry Minnix:
I hope you will keep covering this issue. One of the ways we’re going to get it to the national consciousness is if people like you will stay tuned to it.

Jane Zarem:
Okay, thank you very much.