Will Medicare cover the cost of a nursing home?

DEAR GARDEN STATE TRUST COMPANY,
 MY PARENT HAS BEEN RETIRED FOR MANY YEARS AND IS BEGINNING TO HAVE SOME TROUBLE WITH LIVING INDEPENDENTLY.  WILL MEDICARE COVER ALL OR PART OF THE COST OF A NURSING HOME? 
—WORRIED CHILD

Dear “Worried”,

No, neither Medicare nor supplemental medical insurance for retirees covers the cost of long-term care. Most nursing home care is custodial care, which appears to be what your parent needs. Medicare covers very limited and medically necessary skilled care or home health care if needed for an illness or injury and if certain conditions are met.  Long-term care is not one of those conditions.

To help take care of nursing home bills, your parent needs to buy long-term care insurance for that purpose. These policies can be quite expensive, because nursing homes are very expensive.  There can be policy terms that lower the cost, such as longer “elimination periods” before benefits become payable. Just as one can’t buy homeowner’s insurance once one’s house is on fire, your parent shouldn’t wait until the nursing home move is imminent to look into a long-term care policy.

Moving into a nursing home should be a last resort. There may be other, less expensive options that you can explore to help your parent with the chores of daily life.

Sincerely,

Garden State Trust Company