and the Health Care Financing Administration to develop and support research and demonstration initiatives to determine how ombudsman advocacy services can best be delivered for consumers of health care and long-term care services. Because of the potentially significant role ombudsmen may have in ensuring quality of care in a reformed health care system, the committee also recommends that Congress require that the Secretary undertake these initiatives during fiscal years 1996–1999 and submit the accumulated results of such research to the Congress no later than January 1, 2000.
During its meetings, the committee conjectured about how a future LTC system might be configured and about the trends that might affect both the need for and nature of the ombudsman program. Consensus on these topics was neither desired nor sought. Based on all this input and its own deliberations, the committee concluded that rather substantial changes in the very nature of LTC are likely in the next decade; it also judged that any ombudsman program will face challenges to adapt and be responsive to changing needs.
If the committee’s recommendations are adopted—including those related to increasing funding, minimizing conflict of interest, developing and enforcing program compliance, and enhancing the capacity of the ombudsman program to generate information about its activities and their effects—then policymakers should be in a better position 10 years from now to make decisions about the desirable evolution of an ombudsman program to meet future needs for advocacy in whatever kind of health care system has emerged in the meantime.