Recent Articles: The War Room
By KATHY RICKETTS
Gazette Reporter | CLIFTON PARK, NY
Martin Bayne looks weary as he hangs up the telephone and slowly pushes his chair away from his computer. A large man with longish brown hair and a bushy mustache, Bayne's eyes are bloodshot, and he looks as though he's been up all night. He has.
"Welcome to the war room," said Bayne, 50-year-old former owner and president of a successful insurance agency who used to earn a six-figure annual income. Since taking an early retirement in 1998, Bayne, who calls himself an "eldercare advocate," often works 18 to 20 hours a day on his website, Mr. Long-Term Care. www.mrltc.com.
"This is where it all happens," Bayne added, looking around the office at his home. "Most of the day, I spend on the phone with congressmen, senators whatever it takes to continue my advocacy." Recognized internationally as an expert on aging issues, Bayne serves as a frequent resource for members of Congress and was asked to submit a White Paper to the White House.
He updates Mr. Long-Term Care, which has no commercial advertising, each night with the latest articles about aging, caregiving, long-term care, and disability issues, often working until 4 a.m.
"When first thrust into the role of a long-term care caregiver or patient, we begin to understand that our adversary is a formidable opponent," Bayne writes in his "Manifesto for Independence," on his website. "And as the true nature of this adversary is revealed, you begin to realize what's at stake Everything. What we value most our dignity, independence, family relationships, even our life savings becomes barter overnight. In essence, our very lives become negotiable."
"When Martin first started Mr. Long-Term Care, at first it was kind of like a joke," said Gail Holubinka, former director of the New York State Partnership for Long Term Care. "It sounded like Mr. Used Cars. No one is laughing anymore."
Studies show most people don't save for future long-term care expenses, believing they won't get sick or that Medicare will take care of them, said Holubinka, director of product development for long-term care for The Prudential in Livingston, N.J. But many predict that the 77 million baby boomers who will soon begin turning 65 will overwhelm current government programs that subsidize long-term care, leaving millions of Americans unable to pay for the care they need as they age. "We need to plan for eldercare the same way we plan for child care," Holubinka said. "But we as a society refuse to believe it's every going to happen."
"Sometimes Martin says things that are not politically correct," Holubinka said as we concluded our discussion, "But he never says anything that isn't true."
Bayne fears the nation's long-term care delivery system is on the brink of collapse and that most Americans are either unaware or indifferent. "In this society we are consumers and capitalists with a capital C," he said. "Unless we are a producer or a consumer, we look the other way. We would rather try to pretend our frail elders don't exist, or we put them someplace where no one else can see them."
Bayne believes long-term care reform involves three areas:
- Education: helping people to understand the nature and scope of the problem.
- Choice: looking at alternatives to nursing home placement using Medicaid dollars to pay for it.
- Financing:Creating viable methods of financing long-term care that involves both public and private sector support.
"I certainly don't have all the answers," he said. "Or even most of them. But I do know we have to start talking about these issues today, not yesterday."
Mr. Long-Term Care also includes interviews Bayne conducted with former President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senate Aging Committee head Charles Grassley and non-political leaders in the field of long-term care reform. One of Bayne's most recent ventures has been compiling a series of weekly non-commercial audios narrated by executives from the nation's most prominent long-term care insurance companies. The talks give a simple, easy-to-understand overview of long-term care insurance.
Thursday, March 9, the Wall Street Journal called Bayne for a comment when Bayne called for a national boycott on all new CNA long term care insurance policies. Earlier that day, CNA in Chicago the nation's second largest commercial insurer had announced the company was exploring selling its individual life insurance and life reinsurance business. Bayne said the CNA announcement and similar announcements from Fortis and the Travelers, creates "transition orphans," a term he coined to describe a policyholder who, unknowingly, buys a policy from an insurer who plans to ultimately sell the policy to another insurer. The new insurer may not be able to pay claims in a fair and timely manner or have sufficient reserves to pay claims. Premiums may also increase. "In short the message is, we find this violation of our trust unacceptable," said Bayne. "We the people will speak with one voice, and that voice will be heard."
During the six years of operating Mr. Long-Term Care, Bayne said he's spent over $400,000 of his own savings to keep it going. In February, Novaratis Foundation for Gerontology, owned by Novaratis Pharmaceuticals, formed a partnership with Bayne. Novartis will supply funding needed for Bayne to hire a small writing and public relations staff.
A 1981 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bayne spent most of his life in Middletown in Orange County. He became actively interested in aging and disability issues when he started working in the insurance industry soon after he graduated. But the seeds had been planted years earlier when his grandfather was paralyzed by a stroke at age 49. "I remember him trying to tell me he loved me, but he could never quite get the words out," Bayne recalled. "That was the first time I remember seeing a grown man cry." Bayne moved to Albany in the early 1990s where he and Kevin Johnson started New York Long-Term Care Brokers, today the largest long-term care insurance brokerage agency in the state.
"I used to visit nursing homes and talk to many of the residents," Bayne recalled. "I found out they were real people who still wanted to live their lives. They don't have their own lobby in Washington. They don't speak with a great voice. They are silent. There's no one to act on their behalf as an advocate, and I decided that I would try to help them." Bayne began some 12 years ago by publishing a monthly newsletter about aging and long-term health care issues. When the Internet got started, he was one of the first people to have his own website, Mr. Long-Term Care, six years ago.
Ironically, five years ago, while he was still working in the insurance business and bicycling 26 miles a day, Bayne learned he had Parkinson's Disease a brain disorder that causes muscle tremors, stiffness, weakness and a shuffling, unbalanced walk. Although Bayne's doctor recently told him he should no longer live alone because his balance has been impaired, Bayne who walks with a cane and takes about 30 pills a day is reluctant to get live-in help. "I'm so independent by nature, I'll fight this till to the very end," he said.
"Most people with my level of Parkinson's have given up. They think their lives are over, and they're terribly depressed. I feel like my life is just getting started." Bayne said in some ways, his disease has proved to be a blessing in disguise. "As difficult as this is to live with, it has taught me a great deal of patience," he said. "If I were to die tomorrow, I would be extraordinarily grateful for a half century of life."
Most days weather permitting Bayne forces himself to walk outside into his backyard and fill his seven bird feeders and work in his yard. A few weeks ago, he reluctantly decided that he should limit his driving to a weekly half-mile trip to Clifton Country Mall for cup of coffee and a doughnut. He uses the Internet to shop and has his groceries delivered. "I've got a brand new car sitting in my garage, and I can't drive it," he said. "I love to drive. I grieved over that one. It's tough in little ways to lose your independence."
Bayne, who spent three years in a Buddist monestary as a monk in the early 1970s, said he believes he can do anything he sets his mind to, despite his disability. "I force myself to stay awake sometimes when I'm sleepy because I know I have only so much time to be able-bodied in my life now," he said. "I don't want to miss anything. I want to take every second of life that I have left and use it productively. I also think there's a part of me that would prefer to leave this planet a little better off than when I arrived."
Joy Loverde of Chicago, Ill., author of "The Complete Eldercare Planner," a resource guide referred to by the American Medical Association as "the best book we saw," said she regularly uses and refers people to Mr. Long-Term Care for information. "When it comes to issues of aging, Martin has incredible insight and sense of knowing what information people need," said Loverde. "I have incredible respect for him, and so do a lot of other people."
Stephen A. Moses, president of the Center for Long Term Care Financing in Seattle, Wash., said he reads Mr. Long-Term Care daily. "It's a terrific resource," said Moses, former senior analyst for the Health Care Financing Administration and for the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "We just hired a new researcher and one of her assignments is to track the site daily. That's not to say we don't sometimes disagree on issues, but I trust his judgment."