Doesn’t Medicare Pay for Most Long Term Care Needs?
No. Even though many people mistakenly believe that Medicare will take care of most long term
health needs, it pays for less than 2% of the cost. A survey conducted by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) showed that 79% of those expecting to need nursing home care incorrectly believed that Medicare would pay.
Medicare will pay for long term care in a nursing home only if the following requirements are met:
A. Skilled care is being provided to the individual in the nursing facility. Skilled care is continuous 24 hour per day care provided by licensed medical professionals under the direct supervision of a physician. Only about ½ of 1% of all nursing home residents receive skilled care. Most residents get either intermediate” (4.5% of nursing home residents) or “custodial” care (95% of nursing home residents).
Intermediate care refers to occasional nursing and/ or rehabilitative care under the supervision of skilled medical personnel. It is often referred to as intermittent care and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.
Custodial care often involves non-medical personnel such as nurses’ aides who provide assistance with the activities of daily living including bathing, eating, toileting, transferring and dressing.
B. The nursing facility is a “Medicare participating” nursing facility. Many nursing homes will not qualify under this requirement.
C. The nursing home care must follow (within 30 days of discharge) at least a three day hospital confinement. Most often those who require nursing home care do not enter directly after a hospitalization. Often individuals are simply aging and finally realize they cannot manage any more at home or in a relative’s home. Since nursing home confinement frequently does not follow a hospitalization, many states now prohibit prior hospitalization prerequisites in long term care policies.
D. In the past in order for Medicare to pay in a skilled nursing facility, the care the individual received had to be “restorative” in nature. The patient had to be getting better. However, on January 24, 2013, the U.S. District Court for Vermont approved a settlement in the case of Jimmo v. Sebelius which states that Medicare provided skilled care may not always have to meet the expectation of improvement. Generally, if an individual meets the four aforementioned requirements (of skilled care, Medicare participating facility, a 3 day prior hospitalization and care that is “restorative” in nature- now a somewhat unclear term-) Medicare will pay all of the costs of the first 20 days and the individual pays $161 for an additional 80 days (in 2016, adjusted annually). (At a current daily nursing home rate of about $250 or more, one obviously cannot depend on Medicare to pay for most of the cost for these other 80 days.) Beyond day 100, Medicare will pay nothing.
Medicare will pay for long term care in a home health care situation only if the similarly stringent and difficult to meet requirements are met. Home health care coverage includes part-time or intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, and speech therapy, through a Medicare Certified Home Health Care Agency. If the patient requires skilled nursing, physical therapy, and/or speech therapy and if the individual is confined to the home and is under the care of a physician, Part A of Medicare can pay for some other services.
A typical individual who requires nursing home or home health care is someone with a physical disability who simply needs help with the activities of daily living -someone who is simply aging. Medicare will not pay for such custodial care. Alzheimer patients, Parkinsonians, stroke victims, and those who have other organically related mental disorders, form another large group of those who need long term care. Typically, since these chronic ailments of aging don’t “get better,” Medicare benefits are not available.
The bottom line is simple: A wise person will not count on Medicare to pay for long term care services.
So what is a person supposed to do? Contact our office to discuss what long term care planning means to you.
Source: This article is an excerpt from LISI Elder Care Law Planning Newsletter #17 (March 3, 2016)