Long-Term Care: The Approaching Storm Darkens

California continues to be an expensive place to age when living in long-term care facilities.

In its annual survey “The Cost of Care,” Genworth Financial – a life insurance company that also sells long-term care policies – reports that costs for skilled nursing facilities in California climbed 4% in the past year.

Within the state there are huge cost variations for both these skilled nursing facilities, or SNFs, and less expensive assisted living sites.

For a private room in a SNF, the most expensive area in the state was San Francisco, with a whopping annual cost of $175,000. By contrast, a private room in Yuba City was $73,000. Statewide, median costs exceeded $104,000 – about $13,000 higher than the United States overall.

Semi-private rooms in SNFs were somewhat less expensive, with San Francisco still the highest at $132,000 a year compared to $68,000 in Yuba City.

Assisted living costs around the state were significantly lower, although still out of reach for most Californians. The most expensive private one-bedroom costs were in the Santa Maria-Santa Barbara area at $61,500, with Yuba City once more the least expensive at $36,000 a year. Statewide, the median cost was $45,000, or about $2,000 higher than nationally.

The report is yet another dire warning about the state affairs for aging Californians when it comes to long-term care finances.

The SCAN Foundation has reported that nearly half of Californians can’t afford even a single month of nursing home care, with nearly three-quarters unable to pay for over three months.

Meanwhile, many Americans assume that once they turn 65 Medicare will cover these long-term care costs. It doesn’t – other than housing for short-term, emergency medical care.

How do aging Californians pay for long-term care?

Typically, an older adult will “spend down” assets until impoverished and then qualifies for Medi-Cal – the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program that covers the poor and disabled. After that, they wind up in facilities supported by Medi-Cal dollars.

As the senior population explodes from 5 million today to an estimated 8.4 million by 2030 – one in five Californians – this “spend down” could cause massive financial strain on the state’s budget.


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