The marvels of modern medicine have extended the natural lifetime for people all over of the world, including the United States. The gift of more time is weighed down, however, with the prospect of extended time in uncertainty. The only thing that we know for sure is that we will continue to age and our health will deteriorate along the way.
The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that 50-year-olds in the U.S. have a 53 to 59 percent chance of living in a nursing home at some point in their lives. As the study group’s age increases, so do encounters with nursing homes. The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that from 2010 to 2013, 23 percent of people 85 years and older had an overnight stay at a nursing home. This figure may seem pretty low for many people, and indeed it would be impressive, but that 23 percent only includes individuals who survive the two-year study. When fixing this number to include those who passed away during the study, then the new figure becomes 62 percent.
So now that we have established that nursing home stays of varying duration are a way of life for the majority of elderly Americans, let’s look at the accessibility of nursing home care. Most people assume that Medicare will pay for long-term nursing home care, but the reality is that Medicare covers only some expenses up to 100 days in the facility, and it must be a skilled nursing facility that follows a qualifying hospital stay that lasts longer than three days. There are a lot of stipulations to Medicare’s payouts, so be vigilant about your plan and know exactly what will and will not be covered.
What most people overlook is that Medicare does not cover custodial care, and that is what makes up a large part of long-term care. Custodial care is nonmedical assistance like bathing, eating, dressing, and other daily activities. Medicare can cover custodial care, but the beneficiary and their family would have to liquidate most (or all) of their assets and income, as Medicare is supposed to be a last resort for long-term care coverage.
Long-term care coverage is designed to help people from all walks of life, but especially middle class individuals who may not qualify for full Medicare coverage and do not have the assets and income of the more affluent to pay for long-term nursing home care. Long-term coverage costs vary depending on age when the policy is bought, extent of coverage, and a few other factors, but it is offered for people of all ages.