If your "plan" is that Medicare will cover the costs of long-term health care for your aging parents, you need a better plan.
You'll be the one writing the check for the $4,800/month cost of nursing homes, or the $8,000/month cost of round-the-clock in-home health care. Only when your personal assets are gone (and how long will that take, at these rates) does a government agency step in. That one's Medicaid, a different government medical program entirely. Medicaid's the one that helps the poor and disabled.
This is a message that every member of the Baby Boom generation needs to hear: Medicare doesn't cover the costs of long-term health care. That comes as a shock for most of us.
How much does it cost, in today's dollars
These costs are staggering--about $5,000 a month for nursing homes and as much as $8,000 a month for round-the-clock in-home health care. Most of us are going to need some kind of care: it's estimated that about two-thirds of people age 65 and over will require long-term care. But only six or seven million Americans have private policies.
Who's going to pay for it anyway
That means that the costs of care for the overwhelming majority of us will be paid from state or federal funds. This year, the long-term care bill for all 50 states is estimated at $51.5 billion. By 2027, estimates are that the cost sill balloon to $115 billion. Bottom line: Medicaid, the $360 billion/year program that was set up to pay for the healthcare needs of the poor and disabled, is being rapidly transformed into the long-term care insurance program for America's middle class.
What should be done
One approach would be to revamp Medicare by providing rewards to the best healthcare providers or figuring out strategies to deliver these services more efficiently. Another way is to stimulate people to buy long-term health care coverage. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging has proposed a public-private savings plan. Perhaps this problem can be fixed. But for now, perhaps the greatest blessing we can give our children is to remove the burden of our long-term care by purchasing our own healthcare coverage.
Reference: Laurence Harmon is a principal of www.greatplacesinc.com, a website devoted to helping Baby Boomers, 76 million strong, who increasingly find themselves responsible for their aging, often infirm, parents' care, while continuing to have responsibilities for their own childrens' welfare. www.greatplacesinc.com offers timely articles about aging, senior care, senior housing types, and recent developments in health care that are helpful to seniors and their caregivers.
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