It’s that time of year again. New Year’s Resolutions. New Year, New You! New, new, new. It’s also the time of year when businesses evaluate their budgets and rates, and that usually means an increase.
One of the local nursing homes announced it’s new rates last week. All sorts of reasons were given: new government assessments, costs of quality labor, health insurance increases. You get the idea – all to ease the sticker shock that was about to set in.
A semi-private room, the most common in their residence, would increase to $405 per day, close to $150,000 per year. Yikes! And yes, that’s per bed, not per room and then divided amongst the two occupants. A private room in the same residence will be $430 per day. It’s a little more than a 10% increase over their current rates.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about the increase. The nursing home industry has been getting squeezed for years. They’re expected to provide top-notch, resident-focused care, while conforming to a mountain of state and federal regulations that would make the tax code look like a waiting room pamphlet.
For many, these increases will fall on deaf ears. Why? Because many residing in nursing homes are having their care paid for my state Medicaid benefits, what we call Masshealth here in Massachusetts.
Now before you think this is an article about how to sock away millions and still qualify for nursing home benefits, think again. A client of mine, we’ll call him Bill, is a widow with no children. He chose to spend his life savings on his own care. It took nearly 7 years. When all was said and done, he’d spent close to $400,000 on assisted living and supportive medical care to manage chronic illnesses of aging. I became involved as he was moving into a nursing home, as the last of his resources was being spent.
Do I think everyone should spend every penny of their savings to pay for their own care? No. And the regulations agree with me. There are all sorts of provisions for people to be able to provide for a spouse still living at home, or young or disabled family members; to set aside nominal amounts for their own expenses that Medicaid won’t cover in the years to come; and make sure funeral and burial expenses are paid.
We pay attention to tax laws in order to pay the smallest tax possible. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to do the same when it comes to this “tax” on aging? I’m not suggesting circumventing the laws, but I am suggesting being aware of them.
There should also be an awareness of the public policy issues and moral obligations to society as a whole. Put another way, could a millionaire protect everything or at least a lot and get the state to pick up the tab? It’s unlikely without significant income tax hits, loss of control and substantial risk – doesn’t mean it’s impossible. But should they? No. Absolutely not.
And this is why there’s no substitute for knowing your rights and responsibilities when it comes to paying for long-term care, especially in a nursing home. We hire lawyers to assist in real estate closings, personal injury claims, purchasing and selling businesses, even the simplest of contracts. Why wouldn’t you want to know all the rules when it comes to what is potentially the most expensive purchase of someone’s life?
I hear from people all the time that they didn’t seek out our guidance earlier, because they didn’t think they would qualify or they thought they had to spend everything before talking to us. And the conversation always ends with, “I wish I’d contacted you sooner.”
Knowing your options doesn’t mean you have to implement them immediately. As a matter of fact, we are working with a family right now that have intentionally chosen to pay most of their mother’s funds to the nursing home, setting aside only a very small amount to help pay for incidentals over her remaining few years. They could have applied six months ago, but felt that wasn’t the right thing to do.
Our role is to help you make informed decisions. Not shove you into a decision you’re not comfortable with. You owe it to yourself and your family to know your options. And we’d be happy to talk you through them.
If you or a loved one are seeing nursing home care on the horizon, request a complimentary Good Guardian Strategy Session or right there to the right of this article. It’s a no-pressure, 30-45 minute phone call to help you determine your best next step. Easy peasy.