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"After age 65, Americans have more than a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care."
-American Society on Aging

"An estimated 12.1 million Americans need assistance from others to carry out everyday activities."
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Recent Articles: Americans Fail to Act on Long-Term Care Protection; Roper Study Finds Widespread Misunderstanding About Coverage

By: Business Editors
Source: San Francisco Business Wire
Date of Article: May 23, 2003

"People need to prepare before it's too late," says American Society on Aging.

Most Americans over the age of 44 view long-term care as an important health care issue, yet have done little or nothing to prepare for the high costs of such a crisis in their lives, according to a Roper study released today by the American Society on Aging (ASA).

"We know that after age 65, Americans have more than a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care. This is a real wake-up call for all of us to redouble our efforts to get good information on long-term care financing out into the community," said Jim Emerman, Senior Vice President of the American Society on Aging. "It can be dangerous to assume you're covered and to leave your health care decisions in someone else's hands."

Roughly three quarters of those surveyed are familiar with the major long-term care options, and 71% believe it is very important to have some type of private or government coverage for long-term care. However, only 17% say they currently have specific long-term care insurance to cover these costs.

In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed said having enough money to be able to choose a long-term care facility for themselves or someone close to them is very important, but while most (77%) who are still working say they have put aside money for retirement, only 37% have saved anything to cover the potential long-term care costs they may have to face.

Long-term care refers to services people need when they are no longer able to care for themselves. People often need long-term care after an injury, illness, stroke or disease. There are a variety of settings in which long-term care can be delivered. In-home care and nursing home care are two common ways of providing long-term care.

Confusion About Coverage Prevails

One of the main reasons for this gap between awareness and action, according to Emerman, is confusion about coverage. "This study shows just how many people think they're already covered by some other program, when it's very likely they aren't. By the time they realize they're not covered or that coverage is limited, it may be too late to acquire adequate long-term care insurance coverage," he said.

A majority (62%) of those surveyed have at least one serious misconception about who provides long-term care coverage or the conditions under which coverage is offered. For example, more than four in ten are unaware that Medicare provides limited coverage for skilled nursing care, limited to 100 days in each benefit period, and only following a hospital stay.

Other misconceptions uncovered by the survey:

  • 46% of those who currently have health insurance believe that this insurance would cover most of the costs of long-term care. In reality, according to ASA, long-term care is rarely covered by health insurance plans.
  • 30% were unaware that, while Medicaid does provide long-term care coverage, it is only available to those who have depleted nearly all of their own financial resources.

"It's important to realize the differences between benefits from the government, your employer, and private long-term care insurance," said Sharon McAuley, Vice President of Health at State Farm Insurance(R), which funded the study. "This is a complex issue that often requires guidance from a professional."

Many survey respondents are simply unwilling to face up to the likelihood they will some day need long term care. Fully half of those surveyed agree with the statement, "long-term care is something I won't need until I am older, and I don't want to think about it now."

According to McAuley, Americans need to both understand the facts and confront the realities of long-term care. "Long-term care insurance can help preserve choices and allow individuals to feel confident about their plans for the future. Americans need to protect themselves and their financial assets by making sure they insulate themselves from the high costs of long-term care. Considering the potential costs and likelihood of needing long-term care, family members should be talking to each other, consulting a financial professional and planning for their future."

The study was conducted by RoperASW and has a margin of error for the entire sample of +/-4%.

  • Lewin Group estimates based on the Brookings-ICF Long-Term Care Financing Model, 1992. As cited in, "Long-Term Care Insurance: Knowing the Risk, Paying the Price." Health Insurance Association of America, 1997: Pg. 12. The level of coverage provided by long-term care insurance depends on the type of policy you purchase. Some types of care received may not be covered by long-term care insurance.
  • State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company Home Office: Bloomington, Illinois - The American Society on Aging is not an affiliate of State Farm.
  • The Roper survey findings will be posted in the Newsroom section on