weekly blog--one for the ages
Coming to terms with how to pay for long-term care seems to be part of our aging process these days. If you are not independently wealthy or can afford pricey long-term care insurance, the worry only seems to grow in importance.
At some point, 70% of older adults will require help with dressing, hygiene, moving around, managing finances, taking medications, cooking, housekeeping, and other daily needs, usually for two to four years. As the nation’s aging population expands to 74 million in 2030 (the year all baby boomers will have entered older age), that need will expand exponentially.
Enter President Biden’s infrastructure plan. Republicans decry its cost and argue that much of what the proposed American Jobs Plan contains, including the emphasis on home-based care, doesn’t count as real infrastructure.
Even advocates acknowledge the proposal doesn’t address the full extent of care needed by the nation’s rapidly growing older population. In particular, middle-income seniors won’t qualify directly for programs that would be expanded. They would, however, benefit from a larger, better paid, better trained workforce of aides that help people in their homes.
The sobering reality: Long-term care services are simply too expensive for most individuals and families. According to a survey last year by Genworth, a financial services firm, the hourly cost for a home health aide averages $24. Annually, assisted living centers charge an average $51,600, while a semiprivate room in a nursing home goes for $93,075.
Medicare covers home health only for older adults and people with severe disabilities who are homebound and need skilled services from nurses and therapists. It does not pay for 24-hour care or homemakers or routinely cover care from personal aides. In nursing homes, Medicare pays only for rehabilitation services for a maximum of 100 days. It does not provide support for long-term stays in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Caregivers, including nursing assistants and home health and personal care aides, earn $12 an hour, on average. Most are women of color; about one-third of those working for agencies don’t receive health insurance from their employers. By the end of this decade, an extra 1 million workers will be needed for home-based care, a number of experts believe will be difficult, if not impossible.
Biden Seeks $400 Billion to Buttress Long-Term Care. A Look at What’s at Stake. | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)