Who Would You Rely on for Long-Term Care?

Happy senior man in nursing home

Do you know, for certain, who will care for you if you can't take care of yourself? In the event of an accident, most Americans assume family or friends will care for them for several years if they needed long-term care (LTC) services. But, in some instances, the financial burden of caring for a debilitated family member can be too much for a family to bear, and only the "very rich" can afford to provide that kind of medical care, reports HeathDecision.org. This is not the only misunderstanding about long-term care services. More LTC misconceptions were discovered by a recent survey by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE).

The survey asked 1,025 adults who they can rely to help and fund long-term care services if they couldn't perform daily living tasks, such as bathing, eating and dressing themselves. Here are the survey participants' answers:

  • 39 percent said family and friends.
  • 18 percent said they would rely on health insurance.
  • 15 percent would rely on long term care insurance.
  • 12 percent would use their accumulated savings to pay for long-term care costs.
  • 12 percent would rely on government assistance or programs.

The results show that some participants mistakenly believe that the government or health insurance can cover the cost of LTC completely. But here's the truth: The national average, for a private room in an assisted living facility is over $8,000 a month or nearly $100,000 annually. Social Security will only provide retirees a small portion of this, and then only when a person's income is below a certain level - not enough to cover LTC costs. And, other government-funded programs and insurance will cover a portion of the cost, but most long-term care patients have to be senior citizens or extremely poor to receive assistance. What's more, the LTC costs will not be covered on a long-term basis.

Here are brief explanations of these programs and why they can't fund long-term care forever:

  • Medicaid - Medicaid does pay for long-term care services, but only for those program participants who have very limited assets, and who fall with their state's poverty level.
  • Medicare - Medicare is a government-sponsored health insurance program for senior citizens 65-years-old or older. This only covers short-term rehabilitation.
  • Social Security - Most people receive a little more than $800 a month in benefits. In fact, the maximum benefit you will be able to receive retiring at your full retirement age will be just $2,861 a month.
  • Health Insurance - Typically, health insurance only covers doctor and hospital bills and a portion of your prescription costs. Health insurance will not provide coverage for any care that you may need outside the hospital, such as home health aides and nurses, home delivered meals or stays at nursing homes or other assisted living facilities.

The best way Americans can fully cover the cost of long-term care is to purchase long term care insurance (LTCI). LTCI covers the cost of the following services:

  • Nursing home care
  • Home health care
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Adult day care

And, several insurance providers and organizations, such as the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP), sponsor quality LTCI programs for servicemembers, federal employees and their families.

The FLTCIP recommends that you invest in LTCI early, so that if you should become sick or unable to care for yourself, you won't become a financial burden on your loved ones.

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