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Policy Experts Concerned For Elderly Americans In Need of Long Term Care

Due to prolonged physical illness, disability, or cognitive impairment, many people may need long term care as they grow older. Long term care ranges from assistance with daily activities like dressing, eating, or running errands to skilled medical care such as physical therapy. According to policy experts at Genworth Financial’s Third Annual Long Term Care Symposium, two-thirds of Americans aged 65 can expect to need some long term care. Forty-four percent of Americans aged 65 are likely to live in a nursing home, and 20 percent will need long term care for more than 5 years.

Although many Americans are likely to need long term care, a 2007 national public opinion research poll commissioned by Genworth found that fewer than 10 percent of Americans most likely to need long term care currently have private insurance coverage. Additionally, that poll also found that some 44 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that Medicare or their private health insurance will provide the funds for their long term care needs. In reality however, long term care tends to be financed by individuals, private long term care insurance, or Medicaid, as the Medicare program does not generally pay for long term care.

Genworth’s 2008 Cost of Care Survey provided a comprehensive look at the cost of long term care across the U.S. The survey found that the average annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was $76,460, while the average annual cost of a private one bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility was $36,096, a two percent increase and 11 percent increase over 2007 respectively.

According to Genworth’s “A Workforce to Care for Our Aging” report, a “care gap” is looming for those needing long term care, as America’s elderly population is expected to increase by 104 percent to 71 million in 2030 from 35 million in 2000 with the population that typically provides long term care - women 25 to 44 - only increasing by 7 percent in that time frame.

Even now, it is estimated that unpaid caregivers (usually a family member or friend providing care within the home) provide 80 percent of the long term care services in the U.S. AARP estimates that unpaid caregiving had an economic value of $350 billion in 2006, and calls family caregivers “the backbone” of the long term care system. However, U.S. employers lose an estimated $34 billion annually from missed work and other issues arising from full-times employees that also serve as caregivers.

Although the government officials, think tank policy experts, and representatives from Senator John McCain’s and Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns at the Genworth Symposium did not all agree on the best approach to healthcare reform or the best way to ease the “care gap,” all agreed that long term care is an issue that can no longer be ignored, and that Americans must do everything they can to save and prepare for their own long term care needs.

For more information on all of Genworth’s publications on long term care, please visit www.genworth.com.