Americans Clueless About Paying for Long-Term Care, Report Concludes

By Staff Report

Dec. 3, 2009

Even as long-term care costs skyrocket, many Americans have unrealistic plans for how they expect to pay for those services, according to a new survey from the LIFE Foundation.

An online poll of 1,000 American adults revealed that only 10 percent of those surveyed would turn to long-term-care insurance if they needed help paying for assistance with the basic activities of daily living, including bathing, eating and dressing.

The study, performed between October 28 and November 3, coincided with LIFE’s Long-Term Care Awareness Month in November.

Nearly a quarter of those polled said they would look to family and friends to help chip in for those costs, while 13 percent said they’d use their savings. Eleven percent indicated they’d use their Social Security benefits.

Many Americans also have misconceptions on which entitlement programs cover long-term-care needs. For instance, 16 percent of those polled thought they could use Medicare to help pay for long-term-care services, and 7 percent thought Medicaid would give them some coverage.

Medicare, however, only covers certain conditions. It covers the first 20 days in a skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay of at least three days. It will also cover patients who are homebound under a doctor’s care or those who are terminally ill and under hospice care.

Medicaid, for lower-income individuals, pays for long-term care, but users whose assets exceed the requirements need to deplete their holdings—the so-called Medicaid spend-down—so that they’re poor enough to qualify.

Another 20 percent of those surveyed mistakenly thought that health insurance would pay for long-term-care needs. That coverage only pays for medical services.

The median annual rate of a private room in a nursing home is $74,208, according to Genworth Financial Inc.’s “Cost of Care” survey. Meanwhile the median annual cost of home care with a Medicare-certified home health aide hit $105,751.

Homemaker services, which provide non-medical help with basic tasks, was the least expensive of all the services, coming in at an average median annual expense of $38,896.

Filed by Darla Mercado of InvestmentNews, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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