Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this article to reflect the views of LTCG on comparisons of its new data with its older long-term care cost data.
One strategy families can use to make private long-term care (LTC) resources last longer is to rely on home care and assisted living facility (ALF) care as long as possible.
ALF care, or care from a facility that either is not licensed as a nursing home or is not charging a resident for skilled nursing care, can cost less than nursing care.
LTCG found when it conducted its latest cost of long-term care study, using survey data from 2014, that the average monthly rate for a one-bedroom unit in a U.S. ALF was $4,245. A private room in a nursing home cost an average of about $8,000 per month in 2014, or about twice as much as an apartment in an ALF.
See also: Nursing home cost rises
LTCG notes that it has changed its methods over the years and does not believe the new data set should be compared with LTC price data it collected for 2008. The firm gave us the following statement about its views on comparing the new data with the 2008 data:
“LTCG has informed the editor that, because of changes in data collection and research methodology, it is not valid to ascribe cost of care trends by comparing data from the 2014 study with 2008 data, as was cited in the article. Future editions of the LTCG Cost of Care Report will include trend analysis.”
We compared the data, anyway, to try to get a rough idea of how ALF prices might be changing, even if methodology changes may have affected the precision of the comparison.
That rough comparison suggests that the average cost of U.S. ALF care may have increased about 24 percent between 2008 and 2014. A similar rough comparison of the 2008 and 2014 LTCG nursing home data shows that the average nursing home prices LTCG recorded increased 21 percent over the same period.
We checked our analysis of the LTCG data by looking at similar 2008 and 2014 LTC cost data from Genworth. Genworth’s 2008 and 2014 came up with national and state LTC cost figures that were similar to the LTCG figures.
In the five states with the highest 2014 LTCG ALF costs, our rough-and-ready analysis shows that the average 2008-2014 cost increase was about 50 percent for ALF care, compared with only about 20 percent for nursing home care. A list based on the Genworth data might look different, and LTC advisors who want to make specific cost projections need equivalent data for the facilities their clients might actually use, not just average data for a theoretical average facility that may be 200 miles from where their clients want to live. But, clearly, ALF costs are rising faster in some states than in others. Consumers and their LTC advisors have to recognize the possibility that ALF costs can spike, too, and not blithely assume that consumers can minimize future LTC bills by using ALFs.
See also: Something: Really better than nothing?
Factors affecting ALF costs include general price inflation, government efforts to regulate ALFs, labor and benefits laws, and changes in the average level of help that residents need.
For a look at the states where the LTCG study suggests that ALF bills might hit your clients hard, read on.
Percentage change (2008-2014): +24%
The daily rate for a private nursing home room increased 24 percent, to $338.