Thursday, May 16, 2019
The New York Times ran an article recently that doesn't bode well for many elder Americans. Many Americans Will Need Long-Term Care. Most Won't be Able to Afford It reviews what is referred to as
the middle-class bind ... [where the elder has t]oo much money to qualify for Medicaid or subsidized housing, but not enough to pay for long-term care, an industry that has primarily pursued the well-off. ...
A recent analysis in Health Affairs, pointedly titled “The Forgotten Middle,” investigated how many middle-income seniors will be caught in that bind. The numbers were grim.
Using data from the national Health and Retirement Study, including personal income and assets and health status, the researchers defined the middle-income cohort as Americans from the 41st to the 80th percentile in terms of financial resources....
In 2029, for people 75 to 84 (ages when they’re likely to need long-term care), that would mean access to about $25,000 to $74,000 a year in current dollars. Over age 85, the middle-income category extends to $95,000.
The projection is that two-thirds are going to need some type of long-term care, yet "more than half will be unable to pay assisted living fees and medical costs in 2029, the study found." Even those owning a home aren't as house-rich as they may think. Plus this group has a lot of debt, and not that much in savings.
The United States, unlike many Western democracies, has never created a broad public program covering long-term care. Medicare pays for doctors, hospitals, drugs and short-term rehab after hospitalization — not for independent or assisted living.
That could change one day — imagine a new Medicare Part LTC — but “that will be incredibly difficult to achieve politically,” [said one expert].
Policy types instead suggest more incremental changes by both government and industry. Perhaps Medicaid could cover seniors with slightly higher incomes, or modify its regulations to include housing costs along with health care.