As the US economy continues to wobble, the people in the state of California are worried over healthcare costs, a new survey of middle-aged voters shows.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents say that they are apprehensive whether they would be able to afford long-term care. Sixty-three percent worry as much about paying for long-term care as they do about paying for their future health care.
Nor can they hope to save much. Nearly half (48 percent) of voters 40 and older say their household income has declined in the past 12 months, and 50 percent said they had to take money out of savings to meet their expenses. Four in ten (41 percent) have had to cut down on the amount they spend on food in the past year.
The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint for the Scan Foundation and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The number of those aged 60 is expected to nearly double to 12 million people in the next 25 years.
"Californians need affordable options to age with dignity and independence so that they can live how they want in the place they call home," said Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation. "With so many Californians struggling financially today, it is hard for them to think about the future, yet planning for future needs is an essential component of growing older and necessary for one's personal health, as well as the state's fiscal health, especially given the high cost of long-term care."
The poll surveyed 1,490 registered California voters age 40 and older in English and Spanish. Findings show that regardless of their political party affiliation or income level, voters have continuing aging-related concerns over the loss of independence (73 percent), losing memory or other mental abilities (70 percent), and worsening health (70 percent).
The costs associated with living with these potentially debilitating health conditions are high, yet Californians underestimate their potential need for support and services. Sixty-three percent predicted they would need help, but according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care services at some point in their lives, and more than 40 percent will receive care in a nursing home for even a short period of time.
Among other findings, California voters age 40 and older: Cannot afford services
A majority (66 percent) of respondents could not afford more than three months of nursing home care at an average cost of $6,000 per month in California. About four in ten (42 percent) could not afford a single month of care. Among Latino voters, 88 percent could not afford more than three months of nursing home care. Do not have long-term care protection
Most respondents (85 percent) said they do not have long-term care insurance or are not sure whether they are covered for supportive services like in-home care. Are facing stretched budgets
Six in ten (60 percent) said they are worried that their total family income will not be enough to meet their family's living expenses. Have concerns that cross party lines, income levels
Seventy-one percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of voters with household incomes over $75,000 are worried about paying for long-term care. Feel stressed from their current caregiving responsibilities
Sixty-three percent of respondents caring for an aging loved one said it is emotionally stressful, and nearly half said they are not regularly getting the social and emotional support they need.
"People can cut back on movie tickets and trips to the mall," said Steven P. Wallace, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "But long-term care is an essential expense. Most Californians will need it during their life, yet unfortunately, most Californians are not planning for it and the government is cutting back on affordable options that could help."
Wallace noted that cuts to California's budget have placed the network of home- and community-based services that enable elderly or disabled Californians to live on their own in their homes in jeopardy.
"The policy question moving forward has to be how to reorganize and sustain critical in-home programs that provide vital services and save the state from the far more expensive option of nursing homes," Wallace said.
In the latest budget core state funding for Adult Day Health Care centers has been eliminated, and cuts made to In-Home Supportive Services, which provides assistance to low-income adults and children who are blind or disabled.
"Programs are being cut to provide short-term savings, and the reality is that many of these people will end up in emergency rooms, the least person-centered and most costly form of care," Chernof said. "We should instead be restructuring programs to meet the emerging need of a more sustainable network of home- and community-based care."