Low-cost LTC? It's a Southern thing

Nov 18, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Darla Mercado

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Those looking for lower-cost long-term-care services might want to consider heading south.

Southern and Southwestern states feature the most affordable costs for a spectrum of LTC services, including nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and home care, according to a report from MetLife Inc. that uses data from LifePlans Inc.

Excluding Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma has the lowest private-room nursing home rates this year, averaging $147 a day.

Meanwhile, Texas — with the exception of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston — has the lowest costs for semiprivate rooms, at an average daily rate of $131.

Outside of Little Rock, Arkansas' assisted-living facilities are the cheapest in the country, with an average monthly base rate of $2,355.

Financial advisers said that where clients choose to retire plays a role in how they devise plans for LTC insurance.

PLOTTING IT OUT

George Braddock, a partner at LTCI Financial Partners LLC, said he gathers this information from clients who are retiring and then plots out the LTC policy considering the going rate of care in that particular region.

“You design the policy based on where they are apt to use it,” he said.

“The policy will pay, but how long it lasts is determined by the rate at which [the client] spends it down,” Mr. Braddock said. “That also depends on the cost of care.”

Home care and adult day care are most affordable in Shreveport, La., and Montgomery, Ala., respectively. Home care costs $13 per hour in Shreveport, while residents of Alabama's capital pay $26 daily for adult day care.

Meanwhile, Alaska has the highest rates for nursing homes, according to the MetLife study. A private room in that state costs $687 per day, and a semiprivate room runs $682.

Washington, D.C., has the highest average monthly base rate for assisted-living communities, at $5,933.

The study found the highest rates for home care in Rochester, Minn.: $32 per hour for a home health aide and $28 an hour for a homemaker.

Meanwhile, at $141 per day, Vermont has the highest adult day care rates in the country.

The costs of LTC services are up across the board, according to MetLife.

For example, the average rate for a semiprivate room hit $222 per day in this year's survey, while the tab for a private room climbed to $248 a day.

Both figures reflect an increase of almost 4% from last year.

RETIREES WALLOPED

Costs for assisted-living facilities climbed 2.1%, hitting an average rate of $3,550.

The price for adult day care services and home health aides held steady, running $70 a day and $21 per hour, respectively.

The hourly tab for homemaker care rose 5.3% to $20.

Retirees are getting walloped by these rising expenses, as well as by the rate of health care inflation — about 4% — according to Sandra Timmerman, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Rapidly rising expenses connected to long-term care are spurring some near-retirees to act sooner and to get creative about finding solutions.

“It's important for someone to go to a planner early and put this into the mix of all the retirement planning they do,” Ms. Timmerman said.

There has also been a push among gerontologists to let seniors age at home.

The benefits of receiving help at home include lower costs compared with staying at a facility, Ms. Timmerman said.

That reality has given rise to care models centered on cooperation.

Co-housing, for instance, is based on building a community in which all residents help one another and interact in communal spaces. They can also share the cost of employing the services of a home health aide.

“It's like the "Golden Girls' model,” Ms. Timmerman said.

dmercado@investmentnews.com Twitter: @darla_mercado

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