One year at an assisted living facility in New Hampshire has a median cost of $56,000, and the median annual cost of a semi-private room at a nursing home is $124,000, reports Genworth, a national insurance company known for its annual “cost of care” survey.
Families are often surprised to learn that health insurance and Medicare will pay little, if any, of the costs of long-term care, reports New Hampshire Business Review in the article “The dilemma of long-term care.” Some may try caring for a loved one at home, but this is stressful and often becomes unmanageable. Assisted-living facilities can be wonderful alternatives, if the family can afford them. Long-term care insurance is considered one of the important financial protections as we age, but relatively few people have it.
A growing problem with Medicaid-paid care, is that it can be hard to find a facility that accepts it. Not to mention that the loved one’s assets have to be down to $2,500 (note: this number varies by state), which requires advance planning or becoming impoverished through the cost of care.
Most people have no idea how this part of healthcare works, and then when something occurs, the family is faced with a crisis.
The Department of Health and Human Services projects that as many as 70% of Americans age 65 and older will need long-term care during their lives, for roughly one to three years. Yet little more than a third of all Americans age 40 and older have set aside any money to pay for that care.
There are ways to pay for long-term care, but they require planning in advance. This is something people should start to look into once they reach 50. The top reason to do the planning: to take the burden of care off of the shoulders of loved ones. From a strictly financial viewpoint, we should all start paying premiums on long-term care as soon as we become adults. However, not everyone does that.
Families pay for long-term care with a mixture of assets:
- Personal savings provide the most flexibility. This is not an option for many, as one half of American households with workers 55 and older had no retirement savings.
- Veterans disability benefits can be used for long-term care services, but the non-disability benefits available to veterans are more limited. They may cover in-home services and adult day care, but not rent at an assisted living facility.
- If a loved one owns a home, they can take out a reverse mortgage and use the lump sum or monthly payout for long-term healthcare needs. The money is repaid when the home is sold or passed on to an heir.
- Medicare will pay for some long-term care, but only under very limited conditions. It may cover skilled nursing care in a facility but not the care for daily living activities, including toileting, dressing and others. Coverage is all expenses for the first 20 days in a facility and then there is a daily co-pay of about $170 for the next 80 days, when all coverage stops.
- Medicaid is the source of last resort, but what many families eventually turn to.
Planning in advance for long-term care is the best option, and while premiums for long-term healthcare may seem expensive, having insurance is better than having no insurance. For many families, watching the costs consume a lifetime of savings is enough of a spur to planning for long-term care. Speak with an elder law attorney about how to prepare for long-term care needs as part of your estate plan.
Reference: New Hampshire Business Review (May 23, 2019) “The dilemma of long-term care”