You want the best for your aging parent. You know there are many excellent care options available but you can't imagine your mom or your dad living anywhere else but home. They, too, want to age in the place that they know best. They don't want to leave behind all the history and memories that their home holds.
Many people your parents’ age feel the same way. Given the choice, most seniors opt to stay in their own homes as they get older. Whether your loved ones require round-the-clock nursing care or just help with personal care and housekeeping, home health care services can help keep them living safe at home with comfort, independence, and dignity. For many seniors, changing surroundings and routines can be confusing and staying home, on the other hand, allows them to live in comfort and familiarity. In fact, studies show that individuals 65 or older who live in their own homes rather than move to a retirement or nursing facility actually increase their mental health as they age.
You want your parents to enjoy the range of benefits and the personal attention that home health care provides but you worry about the expense. Can your parents afford the care they need without having to move to a retirement home or nursing facility?
Understanding your payment options
Many home health care agencies accept a variety of payment options and are often willing to work with your family to plan appropriate financing and coordinate reimbursements. Your parents may qualify for benefits through one or more of the following options:
Medicare. Medicare is one of the largest payors of home health care services. If your parents are over 65—or are under but are defined as “disabled” for two years for social security purposes—they are eligible for Medicare coverage. The Medicare home health benefit is designed to help with recovery from an injury or illness, to manage a chronic condition, or to help with other short-term, intermittent needs. It may cover a range of skilled care services, including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech-language pathology. Home health aide services are sometimes covered if deemed necessary along with skilled services. A physician’s referral is always required for care. For the U.S. government’s full summary of Medicare home health care benefits see https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/home-health-services.html
Veterans benefits. If your parent served in active military service, or was called to active duty while a member of the Reserves or National Guard, he or she may qualify for VA health care benefits. Home or community care is among the health care services covered by VA benefits. Eligibility is determined based on a patient’s need for ongoing treatment, personal care, and assistance. The VA may also consider other factors such as income level, ability to pay, disability status, and existing insurance coverage when assessing eligibility. For more detailed information, see http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apply/veterans.asp
Medicaid. Every state has a government program that provides medical assistance to people who meet income eligibility requirements. To qualify, a family’s income must be of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or lower (in 2016, $15,654 for a single person and $21,186 for a family of two.) If Social Security is your parents’ primary source of income and their home their main asset, they may meet Medicaid requirements. An attorney specializing in elder care may be able to provide guidance on eligibility requirements. Qualifications vary from state to state, but general information about eligibility is available at https://www.medicaid.gov/.
Long-term care insurance. If your parents have been contributing to a long-term insurance plan, it may be time to take advantage of it. If your parents are already are in poor health or currently require long-term care, it may be difficult to enroll now in long-term insurance. Nevertheless, check with an insurance provider to learn more about what plans and premiums may be available.
Private health Insurance. If parents have private health insurance, they should check their coverage for home health care as it varies from plan to plan. short-term skilled nursing care post-surgery or after an injury not directly related to an auto or workers compensation accident, most private insurance will cover those costs. High deductible plans tied to health savings accounts may offer tax advantages so ask about that benefit as well.
Private Pay. Some families choose to pay for home health care expenses out-of-pocket. Retirement income, savings, stocks, home equity, or gifts from family members are all possible sources for covering home health care expenses. If you do choose to pay out-of-pocket, discuss the benefits of the various sources with an elder care attorney or financial advisor. And, if you do choose to pay privately, most home health care agencies are happy to work out payment terms with you.
Other sources. If your parents require care and/or rehabilitation because of an auto accident or job-related injury for example, workers compensation, auto insurance, or employer and consumer plans may pay for home health care services.
The bottom line: There are several options you can investigate to pay for home health care, making it an affordable choice for many people. When you contact home health care agencies, ask if they accept reimbursements from a variety of health insurance payors and if they’re willing to work with you to coordinate your benefits. Most professional providers will be happy to provide this service.
Affordable care services in the comfort of home can mean safety and independence for your parents, and peace of mind for you.