Okay, so if you’re a born-again believer, you’re probably gleefully envisioning heaven or are at least adding “if the Lord tarries” to the question. And if you’re not, and you’re over 40, you may be counting on moving in with your children or enjoying a living arrangement like the Golden Girls’ of 1980s TV fame.
But just say none of these alternatives pans out, and you find yourself unable to live on your own. Will a decent nursing home be an option for you?
The truth is that only God knows for sure. If our economy crashes and the Huns
overrun our country, all bets are off. But let’s keep playing make believe and pretend that America’s still the Beautiful and we still have some viable financial resources to work with. What’s likely to be available?
It turns out to be a disturbing question.
On the one hand, the demand for nursing-home care is expected to more than double by 2050, according to a recent study by JAMA and the Kaiser Foundation.
On the other hand, the supply looks like it’s destined to dwindle. A long-term-care insurance expert in Green Bay, Wisconsin, points out that a third of U.S. nursing homes are already, at best, showing no profit. The rest are losing money, thanks to dwindling Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.
And don’t count on the government. Reports in states from Louisiana to New York confirm that county-owned nursing homes are already losing money, with many struggling to survive and some already closing their doors.
What’s going to happen when we're ready for these services?
“It’s literally schools versus nursing homes,” according to Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson. “We need a better balance between workers’ legitimate desire for a comfortable retirement and society’s larger interests. Instead, our system favors the past over the future. Things could be done to mitigate the bias None would be easy or popular. But it’s first necessary to acknowledge the bias and discuss it openly. This we are far from doing.”
If you don’t find this commentary chilling, you might want to read it again and consider exactly what this columnist has in mind. Think this is another case of our wanting to be "just like Europe"?