Aging Options

Long-Term Care solutions fall short of need

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Over 12 million Americans access Long-Term Care services.  The edge of the Baby Boomer wave means that in just 12 years, the first of them will reach 80 years of age, increasing the odds that they’ll need Long-Term Care services.  Those individuals will eventually create an unsustainable demand on those resources.  Although Long-Term Services and Supports are improving, as a country we remain unable to find a national solution for what is sure to be a tidal wave of Long-Term Care needs.

This is important because the cost of Long-Term Care is unaffordable in every state of the union.   Taken on average, nursing home costs across the country would cost 246 percent of the median annual household income of older adults.  In the most affordable states, the average cost is 171 percent of income, and at the other end, it amounts to 382 percent of income.  The cost of care is one reason that the average American would like to remain in their own home as they age but while home care is generally more affordable, home care costs average about 84 percent of median income.  Those are the reasons that many Americans believe they’ll need to rely upon Medicare to pay for care.  The problem: Medicare doesn’t pay for custodial care.

If you live in the state of Washington, you’ve won a lottery of sorts.  That’s because Washington, which ranks 2nd on the list, joins the ranks of Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont and Wisconsin as the highest performing states when it comes to Long-Term Care solutions in a recent scorecard put out by the Scan Foundation.   The Scorecard is designed to help states improve their Long-Term Care solutions at five key indicators.  Those areas are: affordability & access, choice of setting & provider, quality of care & quality of life, support for family caregivers and effective transitions.

Because national viable options don’t exist, Long-Term Care solutions reside mostly within the states through their Medicaid programs.  For instance, about seven out of 10 nursing home patients access their care through Medicaid programs.  But to access Medicaid you either need to spend down all of your assets or you need to hire an Elder Law Attorney.

Long-Term Care Insurance, which has been around since the ‘70s, remains an unpopular option for most people but only about 10 percent of Americans purchase Long-Term Care insurance.  (Read this article for tips on purchasing Long-Term Care insurance.)  That leaves the need for states to step up their pace to finding solutions but in the meantime it really does matter where you live.  Luckily, for those of us living in Washington, we don’t need to move.

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