Medicare provides coverage for up to 100 days in a rehabilitation facility so long as the patient needs daily services that can be provided only by a doctor or nurse or is receiving the rehabilitation therapies provided and making progress. But when the 100 days are over, the patient is on his or her own. My mother is now in an excellent rehabilitation center in Boulder, Colo. -- but it's unclear what will happen when she's released.
If you're very wealthy and can afford upwards of $60,000 a year in private, long-term care, the alternative of an assisted living facility is available. But what if you don't have those means? I would gladly take my mother back into my home, but I don't think it's feasible for her to continue to live there. If we can manage to get her down those same steep stairs and into the house again, she'll be trapped there indefinitely, unable to go to the doctor, grocery or anywhere else except to the hospital if she falls and injures herself again. And she'll need someone with her 24 hours a day.
Since my mother has never owned a home or any other assets -- only a meager Social Security and Veterans' pension and the help I've provided since my father died -- she is eligible for Medicaid. And unlike Medicare, Medicaid does provide coverage for long-term care. But having visited the local facilities that accept Medicaid, I can tell you the decent ones have long waiting lists -- a year or more -- and the ones that don't have waiting lists break a daughter's heart. I simply cannot imagine putting her in one of these crowded, dreary, hopeless places.
Currently, 40 million Americans are age 65 and older, and of these, nearly 6 million are 85 years of age or older. One in 5 elderly Americans are currently considered dependent, but the proportion will grow to nearly 40 percent by 2050. We continue to expand the frontiers of life expectancy, but we have yet to figure out how to care for our ever-growing population of older Americans.
The administration's failure to come up with a feasible plan to solve the problem is no cheering matter. We must find a way -- not only for our parents but for all of our sakes.
Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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