Here’s a grim statistic: according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 70% of people over the age of 65 will require at least some long-term care. In 2005 Americans spent more than $206 billion on assisted living centers, home health care, and nursing homes, and as baby boomers continue to age, that figure is going to rise.
With the cost of home health care ranging from $18/hour for basic cleaning help to more than $50/hour for a nurse who can dispense medications, state and federal officials think it would behoove everyone over the age of 45 to be prepared for the worst.
Medicare, after all, doesn’t cover home health care, after all, and since Medicaid can review your assets for the previous five years before granting coverage, you can’t just sign assets over to your family in order to qualify. For this reason, long-term care insurance is a must for the vast majority of us who fall between the extremes of the very rich, who can pay for care, or the very poor who qualify for Medicaid automatically.
Insurance for long-term care comes in many flavors, with both limited and comprehensive coverage available, but what is crucial, says Andrew Haggard of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, is that people plan for their own care, and not rely on the government for a solution.
Whether you have long-term care insurance through an employer or opt to buy your own, the key is to buy it sooner, rather than later. Says William Sundermeyer, associate state director for advocacy in the Ohio branch of AARP, “There’s no way to say when you hit 75 you’re going to need assistance in the home and then in a few years, you’ll need to go to a nursing home.”