NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 1, 2008

Long-term care (LTC) is an increasingly important health care issue, says the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Unfortunately, LTC has few champions. 

Much of LTC is given for free -- by unpaid and untrained spouses and children, says the Star-Telegram.  For example:

  • There are an estimated 16 million working-age adults caring for approximately 9.5 million sick or disabled family members, according to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance survey.
  • These caregivers disproportionately come from lower-income households, lack insurance and 60 percent report problems with medical bills or medical debt.
  • The annual out-of-pocket cost for a family caregiver is $5,500, which is more than the average U.S. household spends on healthcare and entertainment combined.
  • Sixty-two percent of caregivers must alter work schedules, and the resulting lost productivity costs employers $29 billion annually.

For many, care giving at home is the only option:

  • The national average price for a private room in a nursing home was more than $70,900 per year.
  • The cost of four hours of home health aide services -- based on an average rate of $25 an hour -- is about $36,500 a year.
  • The average annual rate for a private room in an assisted living center would be about $33,300.
  • Medicaid accounts for about 41 percent of long-term care spending, compared to less than 25 percent by individuals and their families and private insurance at about 8 percent.
  • Medicare funding, which is limited to 100 days of post-acute care, accounts for 22 percent.

Along with Social Security and Medicare, long-term care is the third leg on the retirement security stool, says the Star-Telegram.  It desperately needs a champion.

Source: Steve Jacob, "Who Will Provide Care as the End of Life Nears?" Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 29, 2008.


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