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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Ways to Pay for Long-Term Care

What types of financial resources are available to help seniors pay for long-term care? My 86-year-old parent will need an assisted living facility or nursing home care in the near future, but has savings that are minimal and does not hold a long-term care insurance policy.

The cost of assisted living and nursing home care in the U.S. is very expensive. According to the Genworth cost of care survey tool, the national median cost for an assisted living facility is over $4,600 per month, while nursing home care runs more than $8,100 per month for a semi-private room. Prices will vary depending on if your parent stays in a private or semi-private room. You can search for the costs of assisted living and nursing home care in your area on your favorite web browser.

Most people pay for long-term care (LTC), which encompasses assisted living, nursing home and in-home care, with personal funds, government programs or insurance. If someone is lacking in savings and has no LTC insurance to cover costs, here are the best options to look for funding.

Medicaid: Medicare is the government run health insurance program for individuals ages 65 and older and is available for individuals with disabilities. The first thing you need to know is that Medicare does not cover long-term care. It provides limited short-term coverage, up to 100 days for skilled nursing or rehabilitation services, but only after a three-day hospital stay.

Medicaid is the joint federal and state program that covers health care for individuals with limited finances. This program does cover nursing home and in-home care. To be eligible for coverage, the individual must have very low-income and not more than $2,000 in countable assets, including investments. (Note that most people who enter a nursing home do not qualify 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 waiver programs that can help pay for assisted living. To get more information on Medicaid coverage and eligibility, call your state Medicaid office or visit the Medicaid website at MedicaidPlanningAssistance.org.

Veterans Benefits: If your parent is a U.S. veteran, or a spouse or surviving spouse of a veteran, there is a benefit called Aid and Attendance that can help pay for long-term care.

To be eligible, an individual must need assistance with daily living activities like bathing, dressing or going to the bathroom. Annual income must be under $15,816 as a surviving spouse, or $24,610 for a single veteran, after medical and long-term care expenses. Assets must also be less than $138,489, excluding a home and one car.

To learn more, see VA.gov/geriatrics, or contact your regional VA office, or your local veterans service organization by calling (800) 827-1000 for contact information.

Life insurance: If your parent has a life insurance policy, find out if it offers an accelerated death benefit because that would allow a tax-free advance to help pay for care.

In the alternate, an individual may consider selling the policy to a life settlement company. These are companies that buy life insurance policies for cash, continue to pay the premiums and collect the death benefit. Most sellers generally get four to eight times more than the policy cash surrender value.

If your parent owns a policy with a face value of $100,000 or more and is interested in this option, get quotes from several brokers or life settlement providers. To locate some, use the Life Insurance Settlement Association member directory at LISA.org.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 19, 2022
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