Long-Term Care Financing in the United States

Issue Brief

Long-Term Care Financing in the United States

An overview

In the United States, people who need long-term care (LTC) face a system with large gaps in care, which they must rely on friends and family to fill. Medicaid finances the majority of paid LTC, but people must exhaust their resources to qualify. Medicare and private health insurance do not cover LTC, and the private market for long-term care insurance is failing. Unpaid family and friends provide most long-term services, but the value of their services is rarely reflected in debates about LTC financing and delivery. Beyond the value of the services, this system has costs to the economy, as spouses and adult children reduce paid work to care for their loved ones. As the population ages and families are less able to shoulder the burden of LTC, the current system may be unable to meet the growing need without an alternative, sustainable financing mechanism.

This brief reviews how LTC is financed in the United States. It draws on evidence characterizing the current system, and demonstrates a need for alternative, sustainable solutions to protect against the unpredictable, potentially catastrophic risk of needing LTC. Read it here.