WebMD Medical Reference
Long-term care refers to social, medical and personal services for people who need help for a long time due to old age or disability. Medicare covers medical needs, but does not pay for social and personal services such as:
What Medicare Covers
Skilled Nursing Facility Care
Home Health Care
To learn more about what home health care benefits include, see What Does Medicare Cover?
The aim of home health care is for you to recover from an illness or injury. Home health aide services and skilled nursing care must be given on a part-time or intermittent basis. To qualify, you must need care
over a period of to 21 days. There are exceptions in special cases.
You may qualify for more care if your doctor can say when you will recover. Once you have begun to get home health services, you may keep getting them:
Medicare will stop paying for home health services when you recover.
Medicare covers hospice care. Hospice is care you get to make you more comfortable when you are in the last stage of life with a terminal illness. You are eligible if you are not being treated for your terminal illness, and your doctor certifies that you probably will live no longer than six months. You can get care for longer than that as long as your doctor says you are terminally ill. For more information on what is included, see What Does Medicare Cover?
What Is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care includes:
This is care you receive indefinitely -- not just the time it takes to recover from an illness or injury. Long-term care may or may not include medical services.
How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Long-term care can be very expensive. You have three main options for paying. You may use:
Many people have no choice but to pay all their costs because their assets are too high to get help. But once they spend what they have, they then apply for financial help.
Long-Term Care Insurance
One way to offset the cost of long-term care is to buy insurance ahead of time. Many insurance companies sell long-term care policies.
The earlier you buy a policy, the better. This chart from 2003 shows what an insurance policy may cost, based on when you buy:
Source: American Association for Long-term Care Insurance. Premiums vary depending on benefits covered.