It’s not something we like to think about, but many of us will find ourselves needing expensive, long-term care in our old age without a solid plan to pay for it. A proposed law would help Americans finance their long-term care the same way Social Security helps them create a safety net for their retirement. On July 1 of this year, U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York introduced the Well-Being Insurance for Seniors to be at Home (WISH) Act, legislation that would help address the growing problem of long-term care for elderly Americans.
An Aging Population & Changing Family Dynamics in the U.S.
For the next two decades, roughly 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day. It’s estimated that within three decades, the population of people over the age of 65 will almost double and the population over 85 will triple. Many of them will need long-term care for illness, dementia, or help with day-to-day activities. At the same time, fewer of us will have family members that can pitch in to give us the care we need at home, because the American family has become smaller and more spread out geographically than it used to be.
American Healthcare is Obscenely Expensive
These demographic factors will force many of us to turn to nursing homes for the care we need. Anyone who’s been to a doctor’s office or a hospital knows how expensive even minor services can be. The cost for round-the-clock long-term care is staggering. The for-profit health care system in the United States is, by far, the most expensive in the world (and 42% higher than the runner-up, Switzerland). According to MarketWatch, the cost of long-term care is:
- Nursing homes: $255 per day or $7,756 per month for a semi-private room; $293 per day or $8,821 per month for a private room
- One-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility: $141 per day or $4,300 per month
- Home health aide: $150 per day ($24 hourly) or $4,576 per month
- Homemaker services: $147 per day ($23.50 hourly) or $4,481 per month
- Adult day health care centers: $74 per day or $1,603 per month
Cost Goes Up While Quality Goes Down
Medicare and Medicaid are currently in place to help Americans with health care, including long-term care needs, but it’s fair to wonder about the future of these expensive programs without additional funding, as proposed in the WISH legislation. The combination of an aging population and runaway healthcare costs in the United States is going to create skyrocketing costs to Medicare and Medicaid in the near future, a cost that might be unsustainable even by U.S. deficit-spending standards.
The second problem is that at-home care is simply far too expensive for most, leaving nursing homes as the only option for people without family members to care for them. Despite the huge expense of nursing homes, they frequently fail to provide a decent quality of life for residents or even a safe environment, and this is a trend that is only getting worse. In May of 2020, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported that 82% of nursing homes had an infection-control-related infraction in one or more years. The GAO concluded that “most nursing homes had infection control deficiencies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; half of these homes had persistent problems.”
Preventable deadly infection outbreaks, dirty facilities, and resident abuse and neglect are shockingly common. The staff at nursing homes are the lowest paid and lowest trained in all of healthcare, and the for-profit motive of owners encourages nursing homes to create a business model where the staff is overworked, poorly equipped, and spread dangerously thin among too many residents. The result is unnecessary misery and death for nursing home residents – all with a hefty price tag to taxpayers.
A New Safety Net for Long-Term Care
The WISH Act looks like a step in the right direction. The proposed legislation would create a trust fund that would cover about 6 hours of professional home care per day, empowering Americans to live out their golden years in the comfort of home. For more information on the legislation, click here (PDF).
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing the victims of medical malpractice and nursing home abuse/neglect. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable patients and residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical malpractice or nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options. To contact our team, call (410) 698-1717 today for a consultation.
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