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Stephanie Bouchard, Healthcare Finance News: Cost to live in long-term care facilities continues to climb

Cost to live in long-term care facilities continues to climb
by Stephanie Bouchard, Associate Editor, November 2, 2011

WESTPORT, CT – Rates to live in long-term care facilities continue to rise, according to a new market survey of nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult day and home care services. National average rates for a private or semi-private room in a nursing home rose by 4.4 percent from 2010 to 2011 (to $74,825/$87,235 annually [$6,235-$7269/month; my emphasis & long division —rk] for a semi-private/private room) and base rates at assisted living communities increased by 5.6 percent (to $41,724 annually).

The national survey of 2,003 nursing homes, 1,492 assisted living communities, 1,644 home care agencies and 1,341 adult day services was conducted by risk management and consulting firm LifePlans for the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMMI), a division of insurance and financial services company, MetLife. MMMI has surveyed the long-term care market since 2002.

The increases in costs at long-term care facilities are attributable to a number of factors said Kathy O’Brien, RN, senior gerontologist at MMMI. Those factors include the national economy and increased costs incurred by the facilities, such as rising healthcare and energy costs and having to add more specialized care for elderly patients who are living longer and have multiple major chronic illnesses.

O’Brien also noted that the same facilities are not necessarily surveyed each year, which may account for some of the variability seen in the survey results.

The increases in rates at long-term care facilities across the country have implications for the facilities themselves as well as to consumers, O’Brien said.

Facilities may find it difficult to maintain a capacity census, she said, if funding sources do not cover the full cost of services and they need to rely solely or primarily on privately paying clients and if more and more people decide to look for alternatives, such as home care, rather than entering a long-term care facility.

The rise in rates at long-term care facilities should be a heads-up to consumers to really plan for their future long-term care needs, O’Brien said. “These costs can derail a retirement plan and with today’s economy we know that retirement savings rates are low and Medicare and regular health insurance do not cover ongoing long-term costs,” she said.

Noting that Medicaid covers some long-term care services, O’Brien recommended that consumers consider private long-term care insurance and exploring community resources and services, such as home care and adult day services.

The survey did note that while adult day services also increased – by 4.5 percent, or a national average of $70 a day – home care service rates remained the same at $21 an hour for a home health aide and $19 an hour for companions.

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.

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