The Frail Senior and Obama-Care

Have you been wondering if the proposed Obama-Biden “plan to lower healthcare costs and ensure affordable, accessible, health coverage for all” would provide long-term skilled nursing home care for frail seniors?  The short answer is…no! 

The key features of the plan focus on providing access to healthcare to “over 45 million Americans—including over 8 million children” who lack health insurance.  The Obama-Biden Plan has five main strategies: 

  1. Invest in electronic health information technology systems
  2. Improve access to prevention and proven disease management programs
  3. Ensure that health providers deliver quality care
  4. Lower drug and insurance costs
  5. Reduce insurance costs for catastrophic illness coverage

Here is the principal goal as highlighted on the Obama website:  “Barack Obama and Joe Biden will guarantee affordable, accessible healthcare coverage for all Americans.”  Despite the presence of the seemingly straightforward words “healthcare coverage” and “all” in the sentence above, it’s critical to understand the definition of those words.  When it comes to healthcare and politics, even simple words may not have a common-sense meaning.  “Healthcare coverage” means “payment for acute healthcare costs.”  Acute care is the type of care given to recover from short-term diseases and accidents. 

In the United States, public healthcare payers, such as Medicare and Tri-Care (for retired military) and the private healthcare insurers, reimburse healthcare providers only for acute care and acute illness rehabilitation.  These payers specifically exclude long-term care in a skilled care nursing home.  Care in a skilled care nursing home is defined as chronic care.  Neither Medicare nor private health insurance pay for chronic care in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.  Unfortunately, the bottom line for America’s frail seniors with a long-term illness is that the word “all” (as defined in the Obama-Biden Healthcare Plan) does not include them. 

Sadly, this means that under our current healthcare program and the Obama proposals, the majority of America’s seniors have no alternative but to pay their own nursing home bills.  If you have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or another long-term illness—you are still on your own.  Even if Obama-care is enacted, you will be required to pay your own tab for long-term healthcare until you are impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid.

But there are ways to prevent the impoverishment required to qualify for Medicaid, if you plan far enough ahead.  We recommend that boomers and seniors seriously consider long-term care insurance.  And to avoid some of the worst outcomes, please contact an elder law attorney who can help you plan today for better long-term healthcare tomorrow.

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