No, long term care is not directly affected by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, AKA Obamacare) but there are some scary correlations between the two. I refer to this morning’s Wall Street Journal article about what is coming – in both healthcare and long term care.
Doctors are retiring in droves. Those near are taking early retirement to avoid the losses of treating people for less than they are reimbursed. Medicare payments are being cut way back just as 10,000 Americans a day are coming on board (and will each day for the next 18-19 years). The ACA takes large sums from Medicare to fund the ACA. Doctors are reimbursed less and less, as more people are starting to use Medicare, hoping to get doctor appointments scheduled. Doctors often discourage their children from entering the profession. Others won’t accept new patients over the age of 50 (who will get Medicare in 15 years).
Medicaid, the primary payer of long term care in America, is being stretched to millions of uninsured Americans for medical care now. This leaves less for the already under-reimbursed long term care facilities. Nursing facilities tell me they lose between $2000 and $3400 per month on every resident on Medicaid. They cannot make you leave if you run out of funds and turn to Medicaid, but they can – and do – say no to your entrance. If you lose money on every customer, you cannot make it up on volume! They do it gently, asking about what care you will need, and then apologizing that they do not have the staff, currently, to deal with those needs. If the “desirable” LTC facilities turn you away, what choice does this leave you? The less desirable facilities, or one far away that will accept you? I wonder if the people who “wisely” divested their homes and fortunes years ago realized the box they have put themselves in.
More doctors are going into “concierge” medicine, accepting only those patients willing to pay an annual retainer of $500-$3000 a year for ready access and longer consultations. Some LTC facilities also are turning away all Medicaid entrants. The ambience will be nicer, with more staff and better activities and food, and all will pay their fair share with no cost shifting. That is where I want to go when needed, and I have the income from my LTC insurance policy to pay for it. Wouldn’t you like to be in a position to choose such care as well?
With the ACA starting enrollments just as the Medicare Advantage season starts, there is confusion with some going to the wrong site for information and to sign up. Many Americans already believe that LTC is free from the government, and do not realize that Medicaid is not given because you are old, or disabled, it is given because you are impoverished – a fancy word for broke. Why would someone plan to end up that way and dependent on a government that you may have heard rumors of being short on funds itself? LTC insurance is often less expensive than people imagine, and most do not need as much as they initially suspect. Wouldn’t it be prudent to at least investigate?