LWVDC Panel Discussion
Experts Talk About Long Term Care After Illness or Accident
By Goody Braun and Judith Ryan
Suppose you are hospitalized for an illness or injury, then spend time in rehab and are discharged needing help with personal care such as bathing and dressing. These needs can last for an average five years. Where do get the needed care – At home? In a nursing home? Assisted living facility? And how do you pay for it – out of pocket; long term care insurance, or Medicaid? Health insurance and Medicare do not provide these benefits.
This vast and complicated subject – which is important to all ages though often thought of as an issue for older individuals --was explored at a public forum LWVDC sponsored on October 16; it was held at Pepco Edison Place Gallery,702 Eighth St. NW. The program featured Judith Feder, Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute and nationally recognized leader in health policy, and Stephanie Williamson, Chief of Staff, DC Department of Health Care Finance. Highlights of their presentations:
Seventy percent of Americans aged 65 and older will need long term care – also called Chronic Care or Custodial Care -- at some point, and 20 percent of them will stay in an institution an average of five years.
A nursing home can cost $90,000 a year and assisted living can run $45,000 a year.
Only a small group of individuals can afford to purchase long term care insurance, which protects assets as well as the heathy spouse and saves family members from performing the extremely difficult and needed daily tasks. The best time –or “sweet spot”-- for starting to buy long term care insurance and keep premiums relatively low -- is around age 50. However, costs are high even then and for that reason – plus frequent financial failure of long care insurance providers-- Feder does not recommend this insurance.
To obtain benefits under Medicaid, an individual must spend down any assets and income must be low.
At present, four in 10 DC residents rely on Medicaid or Alliance for Health Care (under the federal law known as ObamaCare)