Survey finds misconceptions about long-term health care

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Many Hawaii residents might be unprepared for the expenses incurred as they and their family members grow older, according to the results of a new survey.


Many Hawaii residents might be unprepared for the expenses incurred as they and their family members grow older, according to the results of a new survey.

Thirty-nine percent of state residents erroneously think their health insurance covers long-term care, and 24 percent trust that the government will help them, according to the state Executive Office on Aging.

The survey was conducted by Market Trends Pacific as part of a public awareness campaign. A total of 366 people were interviewed, including 108 on the Big Island.

“Many in Hawaii may be aware of the need for long-term care, but there is clearly a smaller percentage who are aware of the need to prepare for the costs associated with that care,” said Terri Byers, director of the aging office. “We know that we should save and plan for college or retirement, but long-term care is not often part of the picture, despite the fact that 70 percent of us will use long-term services and supports at some point in our lives. We recognize that we must begin to change this.”

Medicaid and Medicare only pay for services under very specific circumstances, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging.

Medicare will only pay for long-term care if a patient requires skilled services or rehabilitative care and is in a nursing home for a maximum of 100 days, although the average covered stay is much shorter at 22 days, or if a patient is at home and also receiving skilled home health or other skilled in-home services. Generally, long-term care services are provided only for a short period of time.

Medicaid does pay for the largest share of long-term care services, but to qualify, one’s income must be below a certain level, and the patient must meet minimum state eligibility requirements.

Meanwhile, “most employer-sponsored or private health insurance, including health insurance plans, cover only the same kinds of limited services as Medicare,” according to an Administration on Aging website about long-term care. “If they do cover long-term care, it is typically only for skilled, short-term, medically necessary care.”

As a result, many people “have been led to believe impoverishing themselves to qualify for government assistance is the best solution, but this ultimately limits their options,” Byers said.

“It is clear that there are no private products available on the market that provide an answer for everyone, and the best made plans don’t always materialize. Our ultimate goal is to initiate a conversation and inspire more people to find out all they can to be prepared mentally, emotionally and financially to create a personal plan for care that is sustainable and adaptable.”

The state plans to launch a public awareness campaign early next year aimed at helping people understand their options and the need to plan ahead to enjoy more choices, and to avoid the risks of not being financially prepared, according to a press release issued Monday morning.


For more information about long-term care planning, visit the National Institutes for Health SeniorHealth website at

Email Colin M. Stewart at

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