Dear wise senior:
What types of financial resources are available to help seniors pay for long-term care? My 86-year-old mother will need an assisted living or nursing home in the near future, but she doesn’t have long-term care insurance and her savings are minimal — Searching Daughter
The cost of home care and nursing homes in the United States is very high. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey Tool, the national median cost of assisted living is now over $4,600 per month, while nursing home care costs over $8,100. per month for a semi-private room. (See Genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html to find costs in your area.)
Most people pay for long-term care (LTC) — which encompasses assisted living, nursing homes, and home care — with personal funds, government programs, or insurance. But if your mom is running out of savings and doesn’t have LTC insurance to cover her costs, here are your best options for seeking financing.
Medicaid (not Medicare)
The first thing you need to know is that Medicare (the government health insurance program for people age 65 and older and people with disabilities) does not cover long-term care. It only provides limited short-term coverage, up to 100 days for skilled nursing care or rehabilitation services after a three-day hospital stay.
Medicaid, however, (the joint federal and state program that covers health care for the poor) covers nursing homes and home care. But to qualify for coverage, your mother must be on a very low income. Its book assets cannot exceed approximately $2,000, including investments. (Note that most people who enter a nursing home aren’t eligible 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 cancellation programs that can help pay for assisted living. For more information about Medicaid coverage and eligibility, call your national Medicaid office (see Medicaid.gov). You can also check your mother’s eligibility for Medicaid at MedicaidPlanningAssistance.org.
If your mother is a wartime veteran, or the surviving wife or partner of a wartime veteran, there is a benefit called aid and assistance that can help pay for her long-term care.
To qualify, your mother must need help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or going to the bathroom. and his annual income must be less than $15,816 as a surviving spouse, or $24,610 for a single veteran – after his medical and long-term care expenses. His assets must also be less than $138,489 excluding his house and car.
To find out more, see VA.gov/geriatrics, or contact your regional VA office, or your local veterans services organization. Call 800-827-1000 for contact information.
If your mom has a life insurance policy, find out if she offers an accelerated death benefit that would allow her to get a tax-free advance to help pay for her care.
Or consider selling his policy to a life insurance company. These are companies that purchase life insurance policies for cash, continue to pay the premiums and collect the death benefit upon death. Most sellers typically get four to eight times the cash value of the policy.
If she has a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more and is interested in this option, get quotes from several brokers or life insurance settlement providers. To find one, use the Life Insurance Settlement Association Membership Directory at LISA.org.
To find these and other programs in your area that can help pay for your mother’s long-term care, go to PayingForSeniorCare.com and click on “Find financial assistance for care”.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is an NBC Today contributor and author of “The Savvy Senior.”