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    Long-Term Care Cost Concerns

    According to a poll by Harris Interactive, most Americans are anxious about how they will pay for nursing home or at-home care.  In Massachusetts, monthly nursing home care costs can exceed $12,000.  While 68 percent of the respondents said they were very or somewhat worried about the costs of long-term supports and services, they were unclear on how these costs are paid for today and what should be done about it.

    A majority of those surveyed held misconceptions about how most of these costs are currently financed. Less than a fifth knew that Medicaid is the country’s major funder of long-term care. One third mistakenly thought Medicare was responsible for long-term care services, even though the program pays for almost none of the costs.  About half were under the impression that the majority of costs were paid privately by individuals. Two-thirds of the respondents believed most people should buy long-term care insurance, even though less than 10 percent of Americans actually have policies in place to cover long-term care.   In reality, very few Americans can save enough money to pay for long term care in their final years.

    The public confusion over long-term care shown in the poll is consistent with past surveys. However, nearly all the respondents agreed that paying for seniors’ long-term care needs is a serious issue, especially in light of America’s aging population.  Most responded favorably to the idea of more public support through a new government program. The problem of rising costs of senior care was not addressed by the Affordable Care Act, despite mounting frustrations over the current system’s shortcomings.  The federal Long Term Care Commission, a congressional panel, issued recommendations on how to improve the delivery of long term care.  However, not surprisingly they could not reach a consensus on how to finance any of their recommendations.

    The poll’s findings highlight the looming long-term care crisis facing our nation. Baby boomers are aging in massive numbers, creating what is known as the “Silver Tsunami.” There are currently 12 million Americans receiving some form of long-term care and that number is expected to double within the next 20 years.  It is estimated that more than two-thirds of those aged 65 and over will need some type of long-term care. 

    Unfortunately, this growing population has done little to prepare for their long-term care needs. In addition, many are planning based on misconceptions, as reflected in these survey responses. Now more than ever, it is critical for clients to plan for long-term care with an elder law attorney and consider long-term care insurance or, when appropriate, implementing a Medicaid asset protection plan.

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