The cost of nursing home care in the Atlanta area is around $70,000 per year for a shared room, according to the 2015 Genworth Cost of Care Study. This is expected to increase at a rate of 4% per year. Many seniors and their families worry – reasonably so – about what happens when such care is required and the money runs out.
The only government benefit available that fully covers long-term skilled nursing home care is Medicaid, a federal program implemented by individual states. Federal law sets the parameters but allows the States to regulate Medicaid within those parameters. So, there are many differences in the Medicaid program from state to state.
Many believe that one has to be entirely impoverished to have Medicaid for long-term care. However, the program allows recipients to keep certain resources (including the homeplace, generally) and in Georgia, a community spouse can keep over $100,000 and some of the couple’s income. Tax-qualified retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks, and the like) are also protected in Georgia, for the most part.
Many skilled nursing facilities have both “private pay beds” and “Medicaid beds”, but pursuant to federal law, these are identical and the care received must be as well. As with most things, there are great skilled nursing facilities that accept Medicaid patients, and not so great ones. Long waiting lists can also be an issue.
Finally, after the death of the Medicaid recipient, his or her assets are subject to recovery by the state in the amount spent on his or her care. However, in some cases this can be avoided.
The take-away here is to understand that as for now, there are long-term care benefits available to those whose funds run low, and planning ahead can help seniors protect the assets they have left.