Pennsylvanians could spend over $100,000 annually on long-term healthcare, experts say

·3 min read

Many families struggle with caring for a loved one long-term. Caring comes with big decisions and a big cost.

The group Genworth Financial Solutions estimates Pennsylvanians could spend well over $100,000 a year for care.

“I can’t bring him home. I’m almost 70. I can’t lift to get him in and out of bed or put him in a wheelchair,” Mertz Whitehill said.

Whitehill and her husband, David, gained power of attorney over David’s older brother, Earle, in January. He was already living in a nursing home. Since then, it’s been a mountain of paperwork navigating unpaid bills, bank statements, insurance and more. Dealing with the reality of cost is another thing entirely.

“You figure 12 months at $10,000 a month. That’s $120,000 that is just kind of like, gone. It was his life savings,” Whitehill said.

She and David are in the process of zeroing out Earle’s accounts. It’s the only way Pennsylvania Medicaid will kick in and pay the cost of care.

“They’ll take every penny he has,” she said. “If Earle had children he wanted to leave an inheritance to, which he doesn’t, but if he did, there’s nothing left. Absolutely nothing left.”

“Medicaid is not easy to understand. It’s not for the faint of heart to try to understand that are trying to navigate their way through the Medicaid regulations system,” Director of Kane Community Living Centers Dennis Biondo said.

He tells Channel 11 that most of Kane’s residents are on Medicaid and the system is far from perfect.

We asked him what he would tell lawmakers about the system.

“Cost is a big factor, of course,” he said. “And, if there’s a way that they can make it less costly for the average person so they don’t have to spend out, so they don’t have to get to almost zero before they’re eligible, that would be one thing.”

Pennsylvania State Representative Ed Neilson is working on changing the system. He’s introduced a bill to help set aside some money for Pennsylvanians to pay for long-term care.

“It’s the conversation that needs to be had that no one wants to have,” he said.

The proposal, now in committee, would establish a fund to provide up to $36,500 to individuals for long-term care.

“The population in Pennsylvania is aging and we have to do something. I introduced it to start the conversation, to have the conversation on how we’re going to address long-term healthcare in Pennsylvania.”

The money would be paid for by a 58-cent per $100 payroll premium. It could be used for a number of things including nursing home costs, in-home care, or home modifications. It’s aimed at helping the 90% of Pennsylvanians that Neilson says don’t have private long-term care insurance.

“It’s a broken system. This will help fix it,” he said.

Kane offers help navigating the Medicaid system. You can reach Dennis Biondo at 412-422-6156.

Click here for more information on the legislation proposed by Rep. Neilson.

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