As our population ages and people live longer, we’re finding that late-in-life-care costs can be incredibly expensive—at times wiping out a person’s life savings. According to an article in The Boston Globe, there’s an obvious strain on family finances and the Medicaid system.
Massachusetts has responded by expanding the role that MassHealth plays (MassHealth is Medicaid in Massachusetts). MassHealth, which funds nursing home care for low-income residents, is now making thousands more residents eligible for this financial assistance. It has also broadened access to a program that provides in-home help with daily activities like bathing and meal preparation, allowing middle-income seniors access to the service through a sliding scale of co-pays.
Other states have developed some creative initiatives like a payroll tax that will be used to create an insurance fund that gives residents access to a certain amount of money that covers expenses such as in-home care, wheelchair ramps, meal deliveries, and nursing home fees. Adopted in 2017, the Kupuna Caregivers Program in Hawaii provides caregivers who work full-time jobs with up to $70 per day to cover the cost of health care, meals, transportation and in-home services for an aging family member. Kupuna is the Hawaiian word for elder.
On the other hand, some states are voting down proposals that would help with long-term care costs. In Maine, voters overwhelmingly rejected a long-term care ballot initiative that would have created a state-run program to provide free home care services to seniors and disabled residents, regardless of income. Funding would have come via a new tax on payroll and non-wage income.
Elizabeth Chen, the Massachusetts secretary of elder affairs, indicated that Massachusetts officials will watch programs being launched by other states and then learn from those experiences.