Long-Term Care

Published January 1, 2003

Unless there’s a shift in the U.S. to a long-term care system based predominantly on private insurance, government-run health plans like Medicare and Medicaid will require increased public taxation and the rationing of medical services to seniors.

Resident nursing homes cost around $60,000 a year, with East and West Coast facilities reporting twice that amount. Paying for in-home care–dressing, bathing, feeding, meal preparation, and similar chores–can top $12,000 a year.

From a report published by The Heartland Institute, there are three ways to pay for long-term care: pay cash; throw yourself on the mercy of a government health care system; or plan ahead and purchase insurance to cover your care.

Medicare partially pays for only post-hospital skilled care, for a maximum of 100 days. Medicare pays nothing for the first 20 days. For the next 80 days, Medicare pays only $101.00 per day. After that you pay the average cost of $164 a day. An average stay in a skilled nursing home is about 365 days.

Medicaid, on the other hand, is welfare, and as such forces a patient to declare a state of poverty before being eligible for benefits.

Private long-term care insurance is a sensible alternative that eases the financial burden on family members as well as state and federal governments while allowing for options and freedom not found in restrictive government plans.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.