Sometime in the future, the odds are high that you or someone in your family will require skilled nursing care. The costs of such care vary widely from person to person and from location to location. A skilled nursing stay can be of a short duration following hospitalization, injury, surgery or a significant decline in health such as a stroke or heart attack. Approximately 25% of skilled nursing stays last less than three months.
For the majority, however, their stay in a skilled nursing facility will be for a longer duration, becoming their long-term or permanent home for the remainder of their life. These residents receive assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and round the clock complex medical care provided by professionally licensed personnel. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, of those older adults requiring long-term care, approximately 30% have substantial long-term care needs.
Residents in a skilled nursing facility generally share a semi-private room, although private rooms may be available at a higher rate, and they eat their meals in a common dining area.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, almost half of all older adults will eventually require care in a nursing home for some period of time. According to the National Nursing Home Survey, the average nursing home stay is more than two years. But almost ten percent of residents in nursing homes remain there for five or more years. This means that many people are searching for answers and want to know what they can expect as they or someone in their family face a stay in a skilled nursing facility. One of the biggest hurdles people face when skilled nursing care is required is figuring out how they will pay for that care.
Average Daily Cost of Skilled Nursing Care
Skilled nursing care costs tend to be the highest of all types of care for older adults, but they vary from state to state. According to Genworth’s Cost of Care database, the average cost of care in a skilled nursing facility is $324 per day.
Private rooms are more expensive, with a median national cost of $338 per day, and semi-private rooms having a median cost of $310 per day. But depending on where they live, families could pay as much as $1,267 per day for a private nursing home room in Alaska or as little as $195 per day for a semi-private room in Missouri.
Average Monthly Cost of Skilled Nursing Care
Most individuals who reside in a skilled nursing care facility won’t spend the rest of their lives there, but long-term stays are common. So, it’s important for families to understand monthly costs, as well as daily ones.
For a semi-private room, an individual can expect to spend just over $9,300 per month, while a private room runs about $10,000 per month.
Average Annual Cost of Skilled Nursing Care
For those who require long-term stays in skilled nursing facilities, the costs can be quite high, an average of about $116,000 for a year, with a semi-private room averaging $111,000 and a private one averaging about $122,000.
Like most types of senior care, nursing home care has become more expensive and is projected to climb even higher in the future. In fact, by 2030, a semi-private room will be more expensive than a private room is now, while a private room is projected to cost about $141,000.
Skilled Nursing Costs by State
While skilled nursing care is the most expensive common type of senior care, some states have more affordable options than others. But it’s also important to note that costs can vary even within one state.
In Texas, for example, a semi-private room ranges from a daily cost of $178 in Houston to $201 in Austin.
|State||Median Monthly Cost (Semi-Private Room)||Median Monthly Cost (Private Room)|
|District of Columbia||$12,660||$14,580|
Want to know more? The Genworth cost of care survey has been the basis of long-term care planning strategies since 2004 and assists families as they plan for the expenses related to long-term care. Genworth provides a cost of care calculator which outlines the costs of various types of care in each state. The calculator allows you to see daily, monthly and yearly costs as well as projecting the levels at which costs are expected to rise through 2047.
How to Pay for Skilled Nursing Costs
Fortunately, because care provided in a skilled nursing facility is medically necessary, you have options you can use to pay for that care other than your personal savings. However, if you choose to be in the skilled nursing facility for some other reason, one that does not require medical care, such as wanting to be with one’s spouse, then the cost of care would have to come from private funds.
Does Medicare Cover Skilled Nursing Costs?
Although almost ten percent of residents who are between the ages of 75 and 85 stay in a nursing home for at least five years, nearly thirty percent of them stay less than 100 days. This is good news for that thirty percent since Medicare will cover only a total of one hundred days of care in a skilled nursing community provided that all criteria are met.
Requirements that must be met include that you must have recently stayed in the hospital for at least three days receiving medically necessary care, your doctor must prescribe and verify that you require daily skilled nursing care or therapy and the facility to which you are admitted is a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility. Other criteria may apply.
It should be noted, for each episode of illness, Medicare will pay all covered costs for the first twenty days, but for the remainder of the one hundred covered days, you will be responsible for paying a daily copayment and then Medicare pays for the rest of the covered expenses. Medicare does not cover the costs of convenience items such as televisions and telephones, private room charges when not medically necessary or private duty nurses.
Does Medicaid Cover Skilled Nursing Costs?
According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, 40% of older adults with long-term care needs are poor or near poor, having income levels below 150% of the federal poverty level. For those individuals, and for those who have exhausted their assets after a spend down, they may be eligible for assistance from Medicaid.
If you will need to do a spend down to qualify for Medicaid, be sure to contact an elder law attorney or financial advisor. There are rules one must follow when going through a spend down. There are also actions that can disqualify a person from receiving benefits such as making large financial gifts to your children or grandchildren for five years prior to applying for Medicaid. An elder law attorney or financial advisor can guide you as you go through a spend down. Contact your local bar association to help you locate a qualified attorney and ask which of their attorneys are teaching seminars to other attorneys about Medicaid planning. Since Medicaid laws vary from state to state, be sure to contact an attorney who is licensed in the same state as the person who will be receiving the Medicaid assistance.
Also note, that although a family home may be exempt from the spend down, if the owner dies while receiving benefits, the government can take the home. Therefore, families who want to keep a treasured family home might want to forgo Medicaid if the applicant’s life expectancy is short and there are other means of paying for skilled nursing care costs.
Are Skilled Nursing Costs Tax Deductible?
According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you, your spouse or someone who is your dependent is in a nursing home (or skilled nursing facility) to receive primarily medical care, then the entire cost of the care, including meals and lodging, is tax deductible as a medical expense. However, if you are in the nursing home (or skilled nursing facility) for any other reason, then you may deduct only the cost of the actual medical care as a medical expense. You may not deduct the cost of meals and lodging in this instance. If you have any questions, it’s always advisable to get advice from someone who is familiar with the tax laws and eldercare in your area such as an elder law attorney or financial advisor.