Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI–12) met with a group of senior citizens Monday morning at the Pittsfield Township Senior Center to facilitate a dialogue on the long-term care system in the U.S.

The discussion was one of several hosted by Dingell before the upcoming White House Conference on Aging held in Washington D.C. in July.

Monday’s discussion, which garnered a packed crowd at the Senior Center, was particularly relevant following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, which Dingell said does not address the issue of long-term care.

“I’m very glad last week that the Supreme Court ruled the way they did on the Affordable Care Act,” Dingell said during the discussion. “It’s not a perfect bill– we can keep working to get it fixed, but the fact of the matter is, is that it does not do very much for long-term care or do anything for seniors, and we’ve got to keep working on that.”

The Dingell family has been involved in health care reform throughout history. Dingell’s husband, John Dingell, was an original author of the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2010. John Dingell’s father, the late John Dingell Sr., also introduced a bill in congress to provide national health insurance every year he was in the House until his passing in 1955.

Dingell herself introduced the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015 and has also released a Long-term Care Guidebook, which provides resources for residents of Southeast Michigan dealing with long-term health issues.

Dingell said the current long-term care system in Michigan is a maze of unintegrated systems that are difficult to navigate and that are not designed to be helpful. She also said she is particularly focused on long-term care reform because it is an issue she is currently dealing with herself, citing her husband’s recent health issues.

“I say to everybody I’m on a journey myself,” she said. “It’s been a rough year. I’m not gonna lie to you, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m really focused on these issues– because I’ve been living a lot of these issues myself,” said Dingell.

Dingell also stressed her disappointment with Medicare’s failure to cover the cost of hearing aids.

“More than 50 percent of the people who need a hearing aid in this country can’t afford one, so they don’t get one. And I want you to think about the quality of life you have if you can’t hear.”

Dingell also spoke of the current long-term care system’s failure to provide affordable preventative care, such as in-home health aides and healthy food service options.

“You need help with daily activities: of eating, and dressing and bathing, and that we’ve gotta figure out how we do that…The current system is designed towards institutions. It’s not designed towards getting you help,” Dingell said.

Attendees responded to Dingell’s comments with their own opinions and worries about the long-term care system.

Some audience members spoke to the issue of changing pension policies for dependent, aging widows while others cited disappointment with long-term care insurance policies they previously bought. Another common concern was the general shortage of caregivers.

In an interview with the Daily, Dingell said she realized people in the audience fear the lack of long-term care benefits available to them.

“I think that you can see how many people are scared and worried that they don’t have the resources that they need for things that could happen,” Dingell said.

Susan Salowitz, a resident of Pittsfield Township, attended the event and said she was glad to see Dingell making an effort to connect and sympathize with the senior community.

“I’m so pleased that Debbie Dingell was willing to come and at least listen to all of our comments, get ideas… and let us know that she was trying very hard to relate to the problems of the many seniors in our area,” Salowitz said.

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