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Want to get into one of the best nursing homes? You’ll need serious cash

May 09, 2019 11:25 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Over the past few years, News10NBC has uncovered heartbreaking stories about the care and conditions inside some of the nursing homes in our community. Now we want to show you how to plan ahead so hopefully, you can choose a nursing home that’s safe and will be a good fit for you or your loved one.

Often we get the same question after our investigations air, “why do the residents stay if the care and conditions are so bad?” The answer is simple: for many, it comes down to money or a lack thereof. Most people don’t think about the cost of eldercare until they or a loved one need it and that, unfortunately, is way too late.

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By the time Mary Del Wypych’s mom was moved to a nursing home, her savings had been depleted.

"We used private money to pay for home care and day programs and things like that,” Del Wypych tells News10NBC. So, her mother was on Medicaid, which meant finding a nursing home that would take her wasn’t easy.

“If there's one bed available and three people apply and one person says I'm going on Medicaid immediately, the second person has $100,000 and the third person has $300,000 -- it's a business decision,” explains Miles Zatkowsky, a partner in the Elder Law practice of Dutcher and Zatkowsky.

Wypych's top choices were out, so she had to pick from what was left.

"They'll take you on a tour and give you their best information and show you the best rooms and so forth but you really need to do research,” she warns.

That research is done on the New York State Department of Health’s website. The agency does annual inspections of nursing homes and responds to patient and family complaints Its reports are public. A News10NBC analysis shows that the nursing homes that do the best are mostly full of private pay patients.

The majority of people in nursing homes, however, are on Medicaid.

“God bless Medicaid at least there's someplace for them to go but is it the best place and or could it be better?” says Barbara Baer, the chair of the Elder Justice Committee.

Case in point: NewRoc Nursing Home on Portland Avenue in Rochester. As News10NBC has reported, the facility has had a very troubled past. State inspectors have cited it 172 times for health and life safety violations -- the statewide average is 32.

Almost every patient at NewRoc is on Medicaid.

“We do serve a population that other nursing homes sometimes are reluctant to take,” explains Christine Schaller, the new administrator at NewRoc. She adds, they don’t get paid as much for doing it.

Private pay customers shell out $500 to $600 per day for skilled nursing care. Medicaid pays $200 per day.

“Medicaid does not pay a lot of money but if the beds are full, we have enough money to operate,” Schaller says.

But, she admits there isn’t always enough money leftover to make sweeping improvements to the facility or bring in additional nurses or programs. While she’s hoping to turn things around, right now Schaller is trying to make ends meet and serve the residents she has. This is a struggle many other nursing homes face too.

How can you ensure you or a loved one will have more options? You have to have a lot of money saved up.

“People work for decades and it doesn't take too many years for it all to dissipate…If you're looking at the private pay, you're looking at people affording $180,000 a year,” Zatkowsky says.

The cost covers around the clock skilled nursing care, meals, and activities, but it adds up quickly. Typically, even people who have saved eventually run out of money and have to go on Medicaid.

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC Investigative Reporter: "I think people think 'well, I don't want to lose everything I can give away to my family, everything that I can pass down, in order to qualify for Medicaid.”

Miles Zatkowsky, Elder Law Attorney: "Correct, so there's a balance. You can say I want to be able to get into a good nursing home so I'm going to set aside some money that will get me in the front door. Most nursing homes are looking for $150,000 to $300,000 to start with because they know you'll pay privately for some period of time then you'll go on government benefits. If you have more than that, you can create a trust or do different estate planning, use estate planning to protect those assets."

If you’re in your mid to late 50s and healthy, you may want to consider long-term care insurance but the premiums are high, typically between $3,000 and $5,000 per year per person.

Also, something to keep in mind: "It's a co-pay, so if it costs $15,000 in a nursing home per month, the long-term care insurance might pick up $7,000 to $8,000," explains Zatkowsky. "Depending on the policy you purchased, you have to pay the other half.

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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