Americans Struggle To Afford Long-Term Care Amid Budget Cuts To Health Services

Kaiser Health News points to a poll conducted by the SCAN Foundation and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research showing that California residents are increasingly unable to afford nursing home care for themselves and loved ones. According to Kaiser, the rise in nursing home costs, combined with inadequate government aid and the projected doubling of Medicare-eligible California seniors over the next twenty years, spells out a future of even greater hardship for Californians:

The percentage of California voters who said they couldn’t afford more than three months of nursing home care increased to 73 percent from 66 percent in 2011, and 46 percent said they didn’t have the money to cover a single month in a nursing home, about $6,800 in California. […]

After a hospital stay, Medicare will pay for 100 days of nursing home care, but after that, families are on their own or are forced to spend down their assets to become poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Latino voters in California, the poll found, were the most confused about Medicare: 31 percent assumed the federal program would pay for long-term, nursing home care – more than twice as many as white voters. […]

Over the next two decades, the population of [California] seniors aged 65 and older is projected to double to 8 million. And Californians want their state government in Sacramento to find a solution.

The intersection of an aging population and rising care costs means that the nation’s largest entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid, will face extraordinary burdens in the coming years. Furthermore, if Congress fails to meet the requirements of last summer’s debt ceiling deal by the end of this year, the Medicare program will also face a round of automatic budget cuts to its providers.

Nursing home care providers are doing their best to protect the health care industry from further cuts that they say could compromise their patients’ quality of care. The American Health Care Association and nursing homes from around the country are banding together this week to launch an ad campaign aimed at encouraging Congress to prevent the automatic cuts to Medicare’s providers even in the absence of a deal, and to protect the Medicaid program — which is excluded from the sequestration agreement — from budget cuts in larger debt agreements. As the SCAN and UCLA poll shows, California seniors are already under considerable financial stress to ensure their nursing home care. If lawmakers do not prevent crippling budget cuts, vulnerable seniors in states like California will be the ones who pay the price.