Sunday | December 04, 2016
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Survey: Kona seniors aware of long-term health costs, not prepared

Only one-third of older Kona residents believe they have sufficient personal savings or insurance coverage for their long-term care as they age, an AARP survey released Friday says.

“A growing number people are aware of it,” AARP Director of Communications Bruce Bottorff said of the high costs of long-term care in the state. “Unfortunately, we’re still not at the point where action is being taken.”

A 2012 Genworth Cost of Care survey put the median cost of one year of a private room in a nursing home at $81,000. Statewide, the Hawaii cost is $126,000, Bottorff said, but that figure jumps to $147,000 annually for neighbor island nursing homes. A year in an assisted living center in Hawaii costs about $45,000 a year, while 12 months of in-home, health-aide care would cost about $57,000, he added.

Despite what Americans may think, Medicare won’t cover those costs.

“Medicare only covers very limited rehabilitative services for up to a month,” Bottorff said.

Medicaid, which 24 percent of Kona residents said they would use for long-term care, only kicks in when a person has depleted all or most of their assets. Medicaid also looks at an applicant’s assets for the last five years, Bottorff said, to make sure the applicant hasn’t quickly dispersed or gotten rid of money or a home for the sole reason of qualifying for Medicaid.

Bottorff said there are other reasons relying on Medicaid isn’t good long-term planning.

“The state can’t afford that,” he said. “The state shares the total cost of Medicaid with the federal government.”

The survey showed 66 percent of Kona resident said they are not confident they can afford to pay for a year in a nursing home. About half of residents, 49 percent, are not confident they could even afford to cost of in-home care for a year. At the same time, 62 percent of residents believe they will need some form of care in the future, and 71 percent said they do not want to depend on family or friends for long-term care needs. Forty-four percent said their family or friends will provide care if necessary.

Just 18 percent said they would use personal savings and assets to pay for care, while another 15 percent said they have long-term care insurance. Eleven percent of Kona residents said Social Security would cover their costs. About a quarter of respondents, 24 percent, said they don’t have long-term care coverage because the coverage is too expensive. Two-thirds of respondents, 64 percent, said they would support the establishment of a mandatory, public long-term care insurance program for working residents.

Kona residents’ responses were similar to responses across the state. The survey was of 800 residents across the state, including 100 from Kona.

Hawaii continues to have a high rate of family members providing long-term care for the elderly, Bottorff said.

“That’s a tradition,” he said. “It’s what we do here. However, the pressure on those caregivers is such they will need care at some point.”

AARP estimates the value of the care given by family members and friends at $1.1 billion annually.

“Nobody has the money, certainly not the government, to pay for that level of care,” Bottorff said. “It’s an emotional, financial and physical strain.”

AARP supports SB 104, which would provide funding for an actuarial study of a mandatory, long-term care insurance programs, paid for by worker premiums. Bottorff said such a program would likely only provide about $70 a day, so it wouldn’t be sufficient to fully cover long-term care costs, but could offset some of the costs.