Long-Term Care is a Senior Issue Desperately Seeking a Solution
NEW YORK (MainStreet) Americans worry about healthcare costs especially as they age but a new survey reveals they have little idea how those expenses will be covered. One-third of respondents to a Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll thought that most long-term care expenses were paid by Medicare, while only 19% understood that the major funder of long-term care is actually Medicaid. But in reality, those extended-care health services are only available to the very poor.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 3 in 4 Americans will need long-term care services at some point in their lives, and this latest research shows two-thirds of Americans are wondering how they will pay for nursing home or home care costs should they need them. Fully 87% say the situation is "serious" or "somewhat serious."
Howard Gleckman, a fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. who focuses on long-term care issues, agrees.
"This is a huge and growing problem," he says. Gleckman notes there are currently about 12 million Americans requiring some form of long-term care -- and that's expected to double within the next 20 years.
In the new poll, 68% of those surveyed expressed worry about how to pay for it all. Senior care is not addressed by the Affordable Care Act and Gleckman says that policymakers have shown little agreement on where to go from here.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports retired individuals spent an average of $135,500 in 2012 for healthcare over the course of retirement. That figure is expected to balloon to $227,000 by 2020.
With the age of the average voter steadily rising, "how we will pay for long-term care in the future is likely to become a huge political issue," added Harris Poll chairman Humphrey Taylor. "The cost is already well over $200 billion and is almost certain to grow rapidly as many more baby boomers grow older."
Last week, the federal Long-Term Care Commission, a panel established by Congress, issued recommendations on how to improve the delivery of long-term care. "Where they couldn't reach any consensus at all was how to finance it," says Gleckman.
"Very few people understand Medicaid's role in long-term care," he adds. In the past, families seeking a way to pay for long-term care would transfer assets to relatives in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits, but since 2006 that strategy can trigger a long period of ineligibility.
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet