US nurs­ing home bills now av­er­age US$91,000

The China Post - - LIFE - BY MATTHEW CRAFT

The steep cost of car­ing for the el­derly con­tin­ues to climb. The me­dian bill for a pri­vate room in a nurs­ing home is now US$91,250 a year, ac­cord­ing to an in­dus­try sur­vey out Thurs­day.

The an­nual “Cost of Care” re­port from Gen­worth Fi­nan­cial tracks the stag­ger­ing rise in ex­penses for long-term care, a grow­ing fi­nan­cial bur­den for fam­i­lies, gov­ern­ments and in­sur­ers like Gen­worth. The cost of stay­ing in a nurs­ing home has in­creased 4 per­cent ev­ery year over the last five years, the re­port says. Last year, the me­dian bill was US$87,600.

“Most peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how ex­pen­sive this care can be un­til a par­ent or fam­ily mem­ber needs it,” said Joe Cald­well, direc­tor of long-term ser­vices at the Na­tional Coun­cil on Aging. “And then it’s a real shock.”

The an­nual re­port from Gen- worth, which sells poli­cies to cover long-term care, looks at costs for a va­ri­ety of ser­vices, in­clud­ing adult day­care, and home health aides. And nurs­ing home bills are ris­ing at the fastest pace, twice the rate of U.S. in­fla­tion over the last five years. One year in a nurs­ing home now costs nearly as much as three years of tu­ition at a pri­vate col­lege.

For its re­port, Gen­worth sur­veyed 15,000 nurs­ing homes, as­sisted living fa­cil­i­ties and other providers across the coun­try in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary. It found wide dif­fer­ences from state to state. In Ok­la­homa, for in­stance, the me­dian cost for a year in a nurs­ing home came out to US$60,225. In Con­necti­cut, it was US$158,775. Alaska had the high­est costs by far, with one year at US$281,415.

So, who pays the nurs­inghome bill? “A lot of peo­ple be­lieve Medi­care will step in and cover them, but that’s just not true,” said Bruce Ch­er­noff, pres­i­dent and CEO of The Scan Foun­da­tion, a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion. Medi­care will cover some short vis­its for re­cov­ery af­ter a surgery, for in­stance, but not long-term stays.

Of­ten enough, ex­perts say se­nior cit­i­zens wind up spend­ing their sav­ings un­til they hit their last US$2,000, and at that point they can turn to Med­i­caid, the gov­ern­ment’s health in­sur­ance for the poor, to help cover the bill. As a re­sult, Med­i­caid pays for more than half of the coun­try’s long-term care bill. That cost ac­counts for more than a quar­ter of Med­i­caid spend­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

Gen­worth and other in­sur­ers of­fer long- term care poli­cies to help peo­ple shoul­der the fi­nan­cial bur­den. But peo­ple have to be healthy enough to qual­ify for cov­er­age. Those who take out poli­cies find their in­sur­ance bill rises steadily as they age.

Cald­well de­scribed Gen­worth’s sur­vey as es­sen­tially a mar­ket­ing pitch. “Of course they want peo­ple to see how much it costs to sell long-term care in­sur­ance,” he said. “What they’re not telling you is that the long-term care cov­er­age is be­com­ing more and more un­af­ford­able for mid­dle- class fam­i­lies.”

Mount­ing costs have also pushed many in­sur­ance com­pa­nies out of the busi­ness. Four of the five largest providers have ei­ther scaled back their busi­ness or stopped of­fer­ing new poli­cies. The largest provider, Gen­worth, has strug­gled un­der the weight of old poli­cies.

Less- in­ten­sive care re­mains much cheaper than stay­ing at a nurs­ing home, ac­cord­ing to Gen­worth’s sur­vey. One year in an as­sisted- living fa­cil­ity runs US$43,200. A year of vis­its from an agency’s home health aides runs US$45,760.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.