In print and screen advertisements, retirement is often portrayed as a time to start a second career, spend more time with the grandchildren, volunteer for a worthy cause, or travel around the world. Any health problems can be managed with prescription medications and moderate exercise.
Realistically, however, many Americans will ultimately need long-term care in a nursing home or in their own homes when they get older. Medicare, which in most cases does not cover long term care, predicts that 12 million elderly will need long term care by 2020, and HHS predicts that 40% of 65-year-olds will ultimately go into a nursing home for some period of time. Non-skilled long term care is often provided by family and friends, such as help with daily activities, while skilled long-term care often must be paid out of pocket.
With the recent demise of the CLASS Act, a section of health care reform designed to encourage Americans to purchase long-term care insurance, the issue of long term care has come to the forefront. The CLASS Act had fiscal flaws, with high monthly costs for insurance, but dropping it does not solve the problem of long-term care. In this economy, with many families struggling, few want to contemplate the stress and expense of caring for an ill spouse or relative. But ultimately, many of us will need to help out.
Kaiser Health News' Howard Gleckman suggests providing long-term care in the future through universal coverage or through insurance policy incentives. Whatever the solution, the current gaps promise to cause many problems for families as the large generation of Baby Boomers ages, along with the rest of us.