When the time comes, as does for most of us, that we need assistance in our daily living, the unfortunate fact is that too many of us end up in nursing homes – not because we need constant nursing care, but because there no other good options. It’s possible that a provision of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may help change that.
According to a recent article in the LA times, the most ambitious part of the Act, as it relates to long-term care is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS – a voluntary, consumer-financed insurance plan to cover long-term care expenses. CLASS, which is scheduled to go into effect in January of 2014, is an insurance plan, similar to those currently available in the private market, with a few notable distinctions. First, the government would administer the program. Second, any working adult age 18 or older will be able to enroll, regardless of any pre-existing medical condition, and the benefits will be good for as long as someone needs long-term care. Perhaps even more importantly, the plan will offer benefits that could be used for a wide variety of expenses, including hiring a home care provider or used for home modifications to help keep you at home longer. (Please note that this may never come into being because on April 14, 2011 a bill was introduced to repeal the CLASS Entitlement Act because of budget concerns.)
Nonetheless, the CLASS Act highlights a widespread move in the country to shift resources from nursing home care to home-based care as a viable and less expensive option. Right here in our back yard, a not for profit organization – Corning Area Aging In Place – was formed in the hopes of addressing these concerns. The cost of nursing home care ranges from about $40,000.00 to $85,000.00 a year, according to a recent report by John Hancock Financial Services Inc. (Sadly here in upstate New York the cost are usually closer to $100,000.00 or more per year.) The average cost of a home health aide (when family members are able to provide help as well), is about $37,000 a year. (Again, higher in this area, but still less than the cost of skilled nursing home care.) The most precious detail, of course, is that the patient can remain at home.
One other crucial item is the need to plan ahead. If you don't plan ahead for these types of issues, you may not have a choice when the time actually comes. To learn more about long term care planning visit the New York Elder Law page of our website, or read the May issue of our monthly e-newsletter, Elder Law Elements.