The cost of assisted living and nursing home care in the U.S is very expensive. According to the Genworth cost of care survey tool, the national median cost for an assisted living facility today is over $4,600 per month, while nursing home care runs more than $8,100 per month for a semi-private room.
Most people pay for long-term care (LTC) – which encompasses assisted living, nursing home and in-home care – with either personal funds, government programs or insurance. But if you are lacking in savings or have no LTC insurance to cover your costs, here are your best options to look for funding.
Medicaid (not Medicare)
The first thing you need to know is that Medicare (the government health insurance program for seniors 65 and older and those with disabilities) does not cover long-term care. It only provides limited short-term coverage, up to 100 days for skilled nursing or rehabilitation services after a three-day hospital stay.
Medicaid, however, (the joint federal and state program that covers health care for the poor) does cover nursing home and in-home care. But to be eligible for coverage, you must be very low-income. Your countable assets cannot be more than around $2,000, including investments. (Note that most people who enter a nursing home don’t qualify for Medicaid at first but pay for care out-of-pocket until they deplete their savings enough to qualify.)
There are also many states that now have Medicaid waver programs that can help pay for assisted living. To get more information on Medicaid coverage and eligibility, contact your state Medicaid office. You can also check your Medicaid eligibility online.
If you are a wartime veteran, or a spouse or surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, thereis a benefit called Aid and Attendance that can help pay toward her long-term care.
To be eligible, you must need assistance with daily living activities like bathing, dressing, or going to the bathroom. And your yearly income must be under $15,816 as a surviving spouse, or $24,610 for a single veteran – after your medical and long-term care expenses. Your assets must also be less than $138,489 excluding your home and car.
To learn more, see VA.gov/geriatrics, or contact your regional VA office, or your local veterans service organization. Call 800-827-1000 for contact information.
If you have a life insurance policy, find out if it offers an accelerated death benefit that would allow you to get a tax-free advance to help pay for your care.
Or consider selling your policy to a life settlement company. These are companies that buy life insurance policies for cash, continue to pay the premiums, and collect the death benefit when you die. Most sellers generally get four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value.
If you own a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more and are interested in this option, get quotes from several brokers or life settlement providers. To locate some, use the Life Insurance Settlement Association member directory.
To look for these and other programs in your area that can help pay for your long-term care, go to PayingForSeniorCare.com and click on “Find Financial Assistance for Care.”
Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.