Nursing Home Costs Increased 6.1% Between 2003-2004, Survey Finds
Nationwide, the cost of nursing-home care is increasing at twice the rate of the consumer price index, although "significant" regional differences in price persist, according to a new survey by MetLife, the Wall Street Journal reports. MetLife surveyed 975 nursing homes and 790 home-care agencies in 87 markets in all 50 states between July and August and compared the results with the findings of a similar survey completed in 2003. Investigators found that the average cost of a private room in a nursing home was $192 per day in 2004, up 6.1% from a year earlier. By contrast, the consumer price index rose 2.7% during the 12 months that ended in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Federal government estimates show that the average length of stay in a nursing home is 2.4 years, meaning that the average bill for a typical nursing home stay would be about $168,192, according to the report. The survey also found large regional differences in nursing-home prices, with Alaska reporting the highest average price at $561 per day and Shreveport, La., the lowest at $99. Meanwhile, the survey found that the cost for home health care aides in 2004 remained unchanged from 2003, at an average of $18 per hour. Home health care aide costs ranged regionally from $28 per hour in Hartford, Conn., to $13 per hour in Shreveport, La., and Jackson, Miss.
Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, said that the increase in nursing-home costs is attributable to a number of factors, including an increase in the percentage of nursing home residents who require more complex care. Many older adults with milder health problems are choosing to live in assisted-living centers or to be cared for at home.
In response to the report, Larry Minnix, president of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, noted that many people erroneously believe that Medicare pays for long-term nursing-home care, and he called for a "national public discourse about what older people need in long-term care and how to pay for it." He added, "[W]e haven't come to that conclusion yet" (Ruffenach, Wall Street Journal, 9/28).