Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care

A recent survey funded by The SCAN Foundation found close to four in 10 Americans, age 40+, believe Medicare and Social Security will pay for long-term care. The need for continuing care services and support to assist with activities of daily living will increase as the population ages. The group will require help with cooking, bathing, grooming, shopping, managing medicines, and toileting.

Thirty-eight percent of the people surveyed in the 2016 Long-term Care in America report said they will rely on Medicare to pay. Correspondingly, 35% will count on Social Security and personal savings while 32% expects to depend on investments for support. Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care

Surprisingly, only two out of 10 older adults will use Medicaid to pay for their aging needs although it ranks as the largest public payer fo LTC, according to the Kaiser Commission. The misperceptions of long-term care payment options persist among Americans, but their ability to pay increased even though many put off planning for it. How and where individuals want care remains consistent to prior years.

Key findings of misperceptions

  • Older Americans prefer to receive care at home, and they want that care provided by family. However, family members say it’s not their preference due to travel distance and prefer the loved one to live with them.
  • Other places for desired care are in a senior community (11 percent), home of a friend or family (4 percent), or a nursing home (4 percent).
  • Men prefer to receive help from a spouse, and women want help from adult children.
  • For Americans with an annual income of $50,000 or less, they will likely count on government programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The others who enjoy a higher income expect to rely on personal savings and investments. However, the survey indicates that three in 10 of the upper-income Americans still report reliance on Medicare to help pay for care.
  • The general public wants to see more policies to help family caregivers face the price of giving care, with 72 percent supporting state programs for paid family leave at work, 83 percent support tax breaks, and 73 percent support a Social Security earnings credit for family members time out from the workforce.
  • Four in 10 family members report having missed work to provide long-term care to a loved one.
  • Close to one-third report having done no planning for long-term care needs.


On the political front, Democrats and Republicans approve some proposals to help Americans prepare for the costs of long-term care. How it plays out: 80 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Republicans favor tax breaks to boost aging care savings. Plus, over 70 percent of both parties would approve tax breaks for individuals who buy long-term care insurance.

Equally, both sides favor a portable long-term care insurance model through their employer, similar to COBRA. And Republicans (71 percent and 68 percent Democrats) would permit non-taxable funds like retirement plans and 401(k)s to pay for LTC insurance premiums.

Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care

Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care Don’t Expect Medicare to Pay for Long-Term Care

About the Author

Carol Marak

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at A former family caregiver, who earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

View All Articles

Leave a comment