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Medicare, Medicaid, and Long Term Care

Facing the rising costs of long-term care? Unpack the roles of Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance in your planning. Learn to navigate the complexities of coverage and discover how to find the right care facilities, understand eligibility, and secure your financial future with our comprehensive guide.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Long Term Care
A young woman consulting with a professional.

With the increase in life expectancy observed in recent years, the interest in long-term care services has expanded. Long-term care includes a variety of services and supports aimed at helping those with chronic health conditions, disabilities, or age-related needs. It can be beneficial for individuals and families to be aware of how Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance may play a part in their future planning.

Medicare and Medicaid are government programs that offer health coverage to a broad segment of the population, encompassing older adults and individuals with disabilities. The details of these programs, including the coverage of services and eligibility criteria, present a complex landscape. This guide aims to provide a detailed exploration of Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care coverage.

The Cost of Long Term Care

The expenses associated with long-term care can be substantial. Costs often vary based on the care type, geographic location, and care duration. For example, monthly rates for nursing home care may range from $6,000 to $12,000, whereas assisted living facilities might range from $2,000 to $6,000 (Area Agency on Aging 1-B). Hourly rates for home health care services might average between $20 and $40. The variability of in-home care can affect the overall cost.

Beyond the primary costs, long-term care may also entail expenses for medications, supplies, and therapy services. Such expenses can contribute to the financial considerations for older adults and their families. It is uncommon for individuals to cover long-term care costs solely out-of-pocket. Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid may play a role in offsetting some expenses related to long-term care.

Government programs, sometimes referred to as 'government assistance', may contribute to covering diverse care costs, though not all programs extend to every care option. Understanding the coverage provided by different programs and insurance plans, along with the types of care available, can be an essential part of financial planning for long-term care.

How to Find Facilities That Accept Medicaid

Long-term care facilities vary in their acceptance of Medicaid as a payment option. Individuals can contact their state's Medicaid agency, which may offer a list of approved providers in the local area ( Additionally, the official Medicaid website features a function to search for providers by various criteria such as location, service type, and facility name.

Professionals such as those associated with local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) can be a resource for information on long-term care facilities and services that accept Medicaid. These agencies may also offer guidance on the Medicaid application process and provide information to help older adults and their families understand their rights and benefits under the program (Area Agency on Aging 1-B)

Various online resources, including A Place for Mom, provide databases where users can find facilities that accept Medicaid. Such platforms may allow users to search based on location and care needs, and often feature details about each facility, such as services, pricing, and reviews from other families, which can inform users about potential options.

What Aspects of Long Term Care Can Medicare Cover?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for individuals aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. While Medicare provides coverage for a wide range of healthcare services, its coverage for long-term care is limited (

Medicare Part A, the hospital insurance component of Medicare, may contribute to the costs of skilled nursing care in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) under certain conditions. Covered services under Part A can include semi-private rooms, meals, skilled nursing and rehabilitative services, and medical supplies ( However, this coverage has specific limitations:

  1. Medicare coverage for a skilled nursing facility is contingent upon the individual having a qualifying hospital stay of at least three days. 
  2. There is a cap of 100 days of coverage per benefit period, with coinsurance applicable for days 21 through 100. 
  3. Additionally, it's noted that Medicare typically does not extend to long-term care in an assisted living facility or to custodial care in a nursing home (

Medicare Part B, which is medical insurance, covers certain home health care services, including skilled nursing care, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, provided these services are deemed medically necessary and prescribed by a physician (

What Aspects of Long Term Care Does Medicaid Cover?

Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health coverage for low-income individuals and families, including older adults who require long-term care. Medicaid generally covers a broader range of long-term care services than Medicare, potentially including the cost of nursing home care, home health care services, and personal care services. Coverage is contingent upon the individual's eligibility and the provisions of the state's specific Medicaid program (

Some states’ Medicaid programs include Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers, which may offer supplementary long-term care services within a community setting. Such waivers could encompass adult day care, respite care, and modifications for homes, aimed at supporting older adults to live independently (

Coverage and services under Medicaid can differ greatly by state. It is beneficial for individuals to review the specific benefits and limitations of their state's Medicaid program. Contacting the state's Medicaid agency or utilizing resources from knowledgeable entities may help in clarifying the scope of long-term care services available through Medicaid in one's area.

Does Medicaid Cover Specialized Care?

Medicaid's scope of coverage extends to include specialized care for certain health conditions or needs in many instances. For instance, it may cover care services for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, which could encompass memory care in various settings (A Place for Mom).

Specialized rehabilitative services, like physical, occupational, and speech therapy, may also be covered by Medicaid for those who require continual support because of a disability or chronic condition ( Furthermore, certain state Medicaid programs may have provisions for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including various tailored services and supports.


Eligibility criteria for Medicaid are determined by each state, with varying income and asset requirements. Generally, there are established income and asset thresholds, often tied to a percentage of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), that individuals need to meet to qualify for coverage (

Alongside financial criteria, there are healthcare-related conditions to be met for Medicaid qualification for long-term care services. This might include showing the necessity for a particular level of care or help with activities of daily living (ADLs) for eligibility consideration for certain types of care, such as nursing home care or home health services (

How to Qualify

To qualify for Medicaid coverage for long-term care, you will need to apply through your state's Medicaid agency. The application process typically involves providing documentation of your income, assets, and healthcare needs, as well as completing an assessment to determine your level of care needs (

It's essential to gather all necessary documentation and information before applying, as incomplete or inaccurate applications can lead to delays or denials of coverage. Consult with a knowledgeable professional, such as a Medicaid caseworker or elder law attorney, to ensure that you understand the application process and requirements in your state. These requirements can be found here on the Medicaid website.

For individuals who are assessing their eligibility for Medicaid, it's worth noting that eligibility criteria include certain asset thresholds. One approach mentioned by Investopedia includes utilizing personal funds to cover care expenses until the asset limits align with state thresholds for Medicaid eligibility.

Additionally, Investopedia references the use of asset protection mechanisms, like irrevocable trusts, as a concept for managing assets in accordance with Medicaid guidelines. These trusts typically involve transferring ownership of assets to a trustee, which may influence Medicaid eligibility.


If you are eligible for Medicaid coverage for long-term care services, the reimbursement process will vary depending on the type of care you receive and your state's Medicaid program. In general, Medicaid will reimburse long-term care providers directly for the services they provide to eligible individuals, with the individual typically not responsible for any out-of-pocket costs (

Exceptions or limitations, including copayments or spend-down requirements, may apply to the reimbursement process under Medicaid for certain services or individuals with higher incomes. Familiarity with your state's specific Medicaid reimbursement policies is beneficial for understanding potential coverage and support for long-term care needs.

Challenges with reimbursement for long-term care services under Medicare and Medicaid, such as denied claims or partial coverage, can result in out-of-pocket expenses. Being informed about rights and options for appealing reimbursement decisions is advantageous in these situations.

Medicare and Medicaid have established appeals processes for disputes over coverage and reimbursement. Acquiring knowledge about these processes can be helpful, and individuals may consider consulting with professionals like elder law attorneys or healthcare advocates for guidance.

Understanding Your Options

Navigating the complexities of Medicare and Medicaid can be challenging, especially when it comes to long-term care coverage. An understanding of the differences between these programs, along with their specific benefits and limitations, is beneficial for individuals making informed considerations about long-term care needs and financing options.

Exploring options for long-term care coverage typically involves considering various types of care available, including nursing home care, assisted living, home health care, and specialized care services. Each type of care has unique benefits and drawbacks, and an individual's selection may depend on their specific needs, preferences, and financial resources

In the process of evaluating long-term care providers, factors such as the quality of care, staffing levels, and the facility's track record with regulatory compliance are worth consideration

Working with Professionals

The complexity of Medicare and Medicaid coverage for long-term care suggests that some individuals might find it beneficial to understand when and how professional guidance could aid in navigating the process. Professionals such as elder law attorneys, financial planners, and geriatric care managers can provide valuable insights and advice on topics such as eligibility, benefits, and long-term care planning.

Additionally, professionals such as social workers or case managers can help coordinate long-term care services and support for older adults and their families, ensuring that their needs are met in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. Working with knowledgeable professionals may contribute to a better understanding of options and facilitate more informed considerations regarding long-term care needs and resources.


Long-term care can be a significant expense for older adults and their families, making it critical to understand the various financing options available through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. By understanding the differences between these programs and the specific benefits and limitations of each, you can make more informed decisions about your long-term care needs and financing options.

In navigating the complex landscape of long-term care coverage, considering the various types of care available, evaluating long-term care providers, and understanding how professional guidance might contribute, could be important steps in making decisions that are best suited to an individual's unique situation.

Lily Vittayarukskul profile image Lily Vittayarukskul
Ex-NASA data scientist building the future of financial planning tools for eldercare using AI. Connect with me to talk about financial planning from first principles.