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Long-Term Care and the Current Health Care System

Long-term care is the problem everyone worries about. How do you pay for it without busting the bank for the taxpayers, or placing an intolerable burden on the backs of individuals and families?

The need for the extended care has become a reality through the longevity revolution. Millions of people are living longer and longer, reaching an advanced age where infirmities rob them of independence.

Yet the health care system isn't designed to cope with long-term care issues. The insurance and government programs are designed to pay for acute care: the detection, treatment, and solution of a short-term problem, an illness subject to combat from a surgeon's scalpel, or a pharmaceutical compound or both.

But what about an 89-year-old widow whose hands are so gnarled by arthritis she cannot dress herself or turn the knob on her kitchen stove. She is keenly alert, but she may wind up in a nursing home anyway, at a tab of $60,000 a year, because there is no way she can live alone. The widow and her grown children are shocked to discover that Medicare won't pay for her care in a nursing home. Only when she impoverishes herself, spending every penny she has on the nursing home, down to $2,000, will the government step in, declare her a pauper under Medicaid and pay for the nursing home bill.

Long-term care, therefore, is an individual financial responsibility except for the poorest among us.

For a more detailed discussion of long-term care related issues, see:

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