It is certainly a pleasure to welcome all of you. It is amazing that we could get this kind of turnout for a Conference on Long Term Care Data Bases. It speaks to the importance of this issue.
This Conference is jointly sponsored by my office, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, or ASPE, as we usually call it, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, or OASH. We work very closely with Bob Windom, Steve Grossman, and their staffs.
I sometimes tell people that ASPE is the Secretary's Policy Shop. We are engaged in a kind of a long range planning and so on, but the real reason we exist is to provide a job for Mary Harahan. I want to first of all thank Mary in particular, and the people in the Division of Disability, Aging, and Long Term Care, for their hard work in setting up this Conference.
There are three reasons for holding this Conference. First, it is the formal follow-up to Secretary Bowen's Catastrophic Illness Study. In his report to the President, the Secretary underscored the importance of "improving the knowledge and understanding of Americans regarding the risk of needing long term care, and the options for financing it."
The analysis of large valid and reliable long term care data bases can help significantly to expand our knowledge and understanding about who needs long term care, how much it costs to provide care, and the impact of various financing proposals on public and out-of-pocket costs.
In my judgment, a thorough exploration of how best to maximize private insurance and other private financing options is one of the most critical research priorities of this Department.
Second, over the past several years, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has undertaken a number of major data collection efforts pertaining to long term care.
As a result there has been considerable improvement in the breadth and quality of data available to examine the use and cost of long term care services. In this Conference, we are deliberately focusing on data bases that are or soon will be publicly available.
Third, long term care continues to attract the attention of Congress, advocacy groups, insurance carriers, and others within our political and economic system. It will remain an area of national policy and significance in the foreseeable future.
The appropriateness of public policy responses and private sector initiatives depend largely on the development of a body of high quality research derived from the best available data.
I believe that our Department has a major responsibility, not only to collect data relative to public policy, but to assure that public use files are made available as quickly as possible for the use of researchers, policy analysts and private sector organizations.
I do not say that lightly. That is something that the government has not always had a good record in. This Conference is intended to acquaint you with the current supply of long term care data bases, and frankly to stimulate the demand for that data.
The audience for this Conference includes researchers, private sector representatives, with emphasis on the insurance industry, federal agency and Congressional staffs, nonprofit association members, and others.
We anticipate that the cross-section of interests represented in this audience will contribute some valuable synergy to the proceedings.
We hope that the Conference achieves several objectives. One objective is to share technical information on the construction, documentation, and availability of large, long term care data bases.
It is important that not only researchers, but policy analysts and other users become familiar with the strengths and the limitations of these data bases and the kinds of issues they are best suited for.
Another objective is to provide a forum for acquainting ourselves with ongoing and completed analytical work that makes use of these data bases.
Many of you in this audience may be able to contribute information regarding your analytical needs and plans during the Conference sessions. Most importantly we want to examine the potential of these data bases for assisting employers, insurance carriers, continuing care retirement communities, nursing home operators, federal and state agencies, and nonprofit groups in projecting long term care service needs and costs.
As occurs in many conferences, the chief benefit may simply be the opportunity provided for a group of people concerned with the long term care needs of the nation's elderly and disabled population to meet and exchange ideas informally as well as formally.
If that occurs to a significant degree, we can count this Conference a success. Again, I wish to welcome you. I hope that your participation in this Conference on long term care data bases proves to be both rewarding and productive.