En español | You're not the only one worried about the skyrocketing costs of long-term care or confused by all the rules about insurance coverage. AARP surveys report that many people mistakenly believe Medicare will cover all the care they'll need as they age. Others think they already have coverage through different types of insurance, only to find out, too late, that they don't. As a result, they may watch a lifetime of savings vanish to pay bills.
See also: Boomer women face retirement crisis.
Most people finance long-term care through a patchwork of options — savings, investments and insurance, as well as government or community services. Here's what you need to know to make your savings last as long as you do:
Medicare pays for a short stay in a nursing home under very strict conditions. In general, you need to be receiving medically related skilled care after being in the hospital for three days or more. Restrictions also apply if you want Medicare to cover services you receive at home. You must need skilled care, such as care provided by a nurse or therapist, and your doctor must order it from a Medicare-certified agency. Medicare does not cover ongoing care or help with personal care, such as bathing or getting dressed.
Private health insurance covers hospital stays, prescription drugs and doctors' visits. Similar to Medicare, it usually pays for short-term rehabilitative services but does not pay for ongoing long-term care you may need down the road.
Disability insurance can tide you over if you are too sick to work. It is salary replacement, designed to cover expenses such as food and mortgage payments, if you or your spouse can't work, but most policies max out once you hit 65.
If you can't get a policy through your employer, buy one through an outside insurer. Disability insurance will usually not be enough to cover the extra care and services you need while you're disabled.
Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides health and long-term care services for people with low incomes and few assets. To get long-term care, people must be unable to manage daily activities such as eating, bathing or dressing. Exactly who and what is covered varies from state to state, so be sure to check your state's Medicaid program.