State should help seniors get long-term care without going broke

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As the owner of two adult family homes, I meet people on a regular basis who are unprepared when entering the long-term care system.

They don’t come to us because of their best-laid plans; they show up when there is a crisis.

An example of a common family experience is when Mom might have a stroke or other diagnosis that impacts her independence. Maybe she is seen in the hospital and then referred to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation.

Once rehabilitation is done, Mom may not be able go back home alone. The changes in her independence make home an unsafe discharge. Her only daughter is the mother of three young children, and works full time, so it’s not an option for Mom to live with her daughter.

Most families are not sure what options are available. Can they hire a caregiver full time so that Mom can stay at home? A 24-hour caregiver is about $648 per day in our state.

Adult family homes are a great choice, but even with our low rates, people struggle to find options that work for them.

Once they learn about options they are often shocked to find that Medicare or other health insurance does not cover the costs of long-term care.

Very few families have saved for this possible need, and most Washingtonians over 65 will eventually need long-term care services.

The aging population across the state is set to double by 2030, and the percentage of family members available to provide caregiving support is projected to decline dramatically, leaving Washington facing an impending long-term care financing crisis.

The Long-Term Care Trust Act is an important part of the answer to this growing challenge for families, and our state.

As a member of the Adult Family Home Council, I am part of a coalition, Washingtonians for a Responsible Future, working to pass the Long-Term Care Trust Act in Olympia this year.

As a resident of Tacoma, I am grateful that my representative, state Rep. Laurie Jenkins, is a sponsor of this bill. It has strong bipartisan support, from all corners of the state.

The program that would be established by this act would cover 365 days of long-term care with a benefit of $100 per day. A person could use those days consecutively or in smaller chunks.

This benefit would cover the complete cost of one year of long-term care for the average Washingtonian who needs in-home care.

Most people in this situation must “spend down” to Medicaid. That means he or she must have less than $2,000 in total assets before accessing Medicaid.

This Long-Term Care Trust would save millions in Medicaid funding by supporting families and preventing or delaying their need to “spend down.” The trust is estimated to save Washington $19 million in the first year alone.

It breaks my heart to see people in this situation. They feel like they have no options, other than spend all their money so that they can access Medicaid. This is not acceptable.

We need to give people an option that would provide relief while preserving their dignity. Under the trust act, families would get to choose the care setting that meets their loved ones’ needs.

Coverage can be used on in-home care aides, adult family homes, assisted living or skilled-nursing facilities.

The Long-Term Care Trust Act not only makes sense for our families and the community, it makes sense for our state’s budget.

Tammy Stimach is the owner of Arbor Rose Adult Family Homes in Tacoma.