PBS News: Costs Putting Long-Term Care Services Out of Reach

High costs of long-term care threaten to put community-based services out of reach for a majority of seniors nationwide, according to PBS interview with Dr. Bruce Chernof. 

Having recently been appointed to the Congress-created Long-Term Care Commission, Chernof suggests that many people associate the word “long-term care” with nursing homes. 

While long-term services and supports can be found in a nursing home, they are more than likely to occur in a community setting, as well as the home, he says. 


The issue with the nation’s current healthcare system, he suggests, is that most American seniors—especially those living on fixed incomes—will only be able to afford these services once Medicaid “picks up the tab” after their savings have been depleted. 

PBS reports:

Most people don’t understand that 70 percent of us — when we’re over the age of 65 — will need some form of long-term services and support. That could be a nursing home, but more than likely it will be in the community. And on average, we’ll need that for three years. So all of us should be planning for this.


The average nursing home today costs about $81,000 a year. And part-time help at home and in the community is in the range of $21-$22,000 a year. So it’s not insignificant.

And so for most individuals, what it means is they end up having to spend those resources or savings to pay for various needs — it could be in the community, it could be in a nursing home.

Medicare generally pays for the acute care components that you have. But when it comes to those long-term care needs, extended time in a nursing home, or extended community needs, those are often paid for by Medicaid.

Unfortunately, the Medicaid program was built in a different time and place. And while many states are working to re-balance their services and make more services available in the home and the community, for many folks, the only option may be in a nursing home.

Seniors, their families, and even Americans who are years from retiring will have to plan both financially and mentally to ensure that their savings last throughout their retirement, Chernof says. 

Read the PBS interview

Written by Jason Oliva