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Isles' long-term care costs high, survey shows

The expense in Hawaii exceeds what is paid on the mainland, an insurance firm finds

By Kristen Consillio

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:46 a.m. HST, May 11, 2011


Costs for long-term care in Hawaii continue to outpace the national rate in some cases by more than 50 percent, according to the latest survey by Genworth Financial Inc.

Genworth's 2011 Cost of Care Survey found that the price for a year of private-room nursing home care in Hawaii — $122,640 — is 58 percent higher than the national median of $77,745. Private-room nursing home costs in the state have risen 4.7 percent annually in the past six years compared with 4.4 percent nationally. The company projects local private-room nursing care will cost $199,768 in 10 years.

Genworth is a Richmond, Va.-based company that offers long-term care insurance and other financial products.

Hawaii's senior population is projected to balloon from 15 percent of all residents last year to 23 percent by 2030, according to the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. People age 65 and older are expected to account for one-fifth of the total population by 2020.

TIPS FOR REDUCING CAREGIVING COSTS

>> Know local costs: Genworth’s website provides the median cost of long-term care across the U.S., including Hawaii, to help consumers plan for the potential costs.

>> Fee waivers: Assisted living facilities often charge a one-time fee when a client first moves in. If the facility is in a competitive market or has a surplus of vacant units, they may discount or waive this fee or offer other discounts such as free rent for a period of time.

>> Special rates: Facilities will sometimes have a special rate if residents move in at the first of the month or during a time that is known to have higher vacancy rates.

>> Vacancy rates: Facilities may allow a resident to choose a more expensive room at a lower price if vacancies are high.

>> Lower hourly rates: Home care agencies may lower their hourly rate if the services needed are easy to staff and long term, such as a weekday schedule that is predicted to last several months.

>> Shop around: If a home care agency's fees are at the high end, they may lower rates if they know the client is interviewing several agencies and cost is an important factor. Let care providers know if a lower rate has been quoted elsewhere for the same services.

>> Premium waivers: Agencies usually charge a premium for weekend services. For a client who also pays for services for a significant number of weekday hours, the agency may waive the premium.

>> Upgrade: Nursing homes generally do not discount their rates, however, certain extra amenities or a private room upgrade might be available under certain circumstances.

Source: Genworth Financial Inc.

"The high cost of long-term care is a real problem for Hawaii residents because we have so many seniors," said Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP state director. "The boomers who are getting to that age — at some point they're going to need caregiving services. When you have costs that have risen as quickly as the latest survey … unless you have long-term care insurance, it's going to put long-term care services out of most peoples' reach. The sad thing is most people are woefully unprepared."

Besides the ballooning senior population, Hawaii has the nation's highest longevity rate at about 81 years on average, she said. AARP projects a 78 percent increase between 2007 and 2030 in Hawaii residents age 65 and older.

"It's challenging purchasing a long-term care insurance plan when you're in your 30s, 40s or 50s — as opposed to paying off a mortage, raising a family, sending children to school — that's not their priority," said Wes Lum, director of the state Executive Office on Aging.

Planning for the future demand of long-term care will need to be borne by the community as a whole — from businesses to government and nonprofit organizations, he added.

"It's a shared responsibility. We all need to do our part" with disease prevention and supporting elder caregivers through family leave policies, for instance, Lum said.

The median hourly rate for home health aide services is $25.25 an hour in Hawaii, compared with $19 an hour nationally, or $57,772 a year, 33 percent more than the national price of $43,472, the survey showed.

In-home care locally increased 4 percent a year through the past six years versus 1.4 percent nationally in the same period.

Meanwhile, Hawaii's annual cost of private-room assisted living care is $45,900, 17 percent higher than $39,135 nationally. The cost will rise to $74,766 by 2021, according to Genworth.

A large number of seniors in Hawaii rely on friends and family caregivers. According to AARP, there are roughly 169,000 caregivers in the state, providing the equivalent of $1.45 billion worth of services.

"This informal system is what is holding up the safety net," Stanton said.

The cost of long-term care is one of the biggest risks to a person's retirement security, especially with increasing medical costs, which is why it is crucial consumers have a financial plan to pay for it, said Buck Stinson, president of Genworth's U.S. Life Insurance Products.

"Nobody thinks about it until it's too late, but it's something that can easily bankrupt you," Stanton said.

Genworth's Cost of Care Survey covers nearly 15,500 long-term care providers nationwide.

The survey was conducted from January to March.

HIGH COST OF AGING

A 2011 comparison of long-term health care costs for Hawaii and the U.S.:
  Hawaii median National Difference
HOME CARE
Homemaker services $52,052 $41,184 26%
Home health aide $57,772 $43,472 33%
ADULT DAY HEALTH CARE
Adult day health care $16,640 $15,600 7%
ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY
Private, one bedroom $45,900 $39,135 17%
NURSING HOME CARE
Semiprivate room $108,405 $70,445 54%
Private room $122,640 $77,745 58%

Source: Genworth Financial Inc.





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