Health Care: Many have done no long-term care planning

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CHICAGO >> Demand for long-term care is expected to increase as the nation ages, but the majority of Americans 40 and older lack confidence in their ability to pay for it.

The annual cost of long-term care expenses range from $17,680 for adult day care to more than $92,000 for a private room in a nursing home, according to Genworth Financial.

Yet an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey finds that a third of Americans 40 and older have done no planning for their own long-term care needs, such as setting aside money to pay for a home aide, for help with daily activities or for a room in a nursing home.

Why?

The poll says about 4 in 10 don't think they will ever need long-term care.

"I'm very healthy at 68 and I really don't have any impending and current problems. I'm self-sufficient," said Brad Woolsey, of a small community near San Francisco, California.

Statistics tell the story

That mindset runs counter to figures from the U.S. Administration on Aging, which says nearly 70 percent of people turning 65 will need help with daily activities in their golden years.

Medicaid, the health insurance for the poor and people with disabilities, is the primary payer of long-term care, spending $146 billion in 2013. Nearly $89 billion was just for seniors.

But the survey found that nearly 4 in 10 respondents mistakenly expect to turn to Medicare, which doesn't pay for long-term care. Respondents with incomes below $50,000 were more likely to expect to rely on government programs.

Jeanie Powell, 58, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she was confident she could afford long-term care until about a year ago when she learned that her insurance policy would cover only $1,000 per month in an institution.

"It won't even put a dent in the cost," Powell said.

Powell said she bought her policy in the 1990s, before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now she is worried and unsure about what she'll do. She stopped working in 2002 and her health continues to deteriorate.

"I have good days and bad days and days I can't tolerate the pain," Powell said.

At the other end of the spectrum, 36 percent of older Americans expressed confidence in their ability to pay for long-term care, up from 27 percent in 2013, the first year of the survey. Those figures are consistent with other measures of consumer confidence following the Great Recession of a few years ago, according to a report by the Conference Board cited by the survey.

In the latest survey, another 36 percent said they feel just somewhat confident and 24 percent said they are not too confident or not confident at all.

Robert Nadel, of San Diego, said he has always feared not being able to care for himself later in life.

"In our family, we didn't send someone to the nursing home," Nadel said.


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