Long-Term Care in Georgia

As the population of the United States ages, the need for long-term care services will continue to grow, placing more strain on the current system. The Association for Community Living estimates that 70% of individuals over the age of 65 will need to access some form of long-term care services.[1]

Long-term care facilities include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities, which provide both personal care and medical care.[2] Georgia has 357 long-term care facilities that provide services to over 40,000 residents.[3] In 2021, the median monthly cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home facility in Georgia was $7,011 per month or about $84,000 per year.[4]

Most often, older adults pay out-of-pocket for services in long-term care facilities.[5] Medicaid is typically one of the only insurances that cover expenses for long-term care services, meaning that older adults must meet specific income requirements and other requirements in order to be eligible for Medicaid coverage.[6] Medicare does not cover long-term care services.[7]

Bonnie Burns, who is a specialist on long-term care and serves as a consultant for California Health Advocates, says that “We don’t have a solution at the federal level, so states are taking it on themselves to experiment with solutions.”[8] For example, Washington state has created a tax program called the WA Cares Fund, which is a payroll tax that will specifically be used towards covering future long-term care.[9] This payroll tax aims to make long-term care more affordable for individuals when they need it. Benefits from the program will become available during July of 2026.[10]

In addition to struggles with costs, the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted staffing for long-term care facilities. Many healthcare workers, including staff for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have left their fields after experiencing burnout while working during the early pandemic.[11] The demand for staff for long-term care is increasing but there are not enough caregivers to meet this demand.[12] The complex intersection of these circumstances associated with cost and staffing combine to create a sort of crisis for long-term care facilities and services.

Georgia House Resolution 141 proposes the formation of a House Study Committee on Expanding Long-Term Care Options.[13] This resolution cites the growing older population in Georgia, the growing need for long-term care services, and the shortcomings of current long-term services as some of the reasons for the formation of a study committee.[14] It also mentions the revised regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on long-term care which shift to a focus on person-centered care and on “respect for the individual’s care, dignity, and quality life.”[15] The House Study Committee that would be created by HR 141 would act to explore options relating to long-term care, including expanding and diversifying options, as well as exploring Medicaid reimbursements and state tax credits.[16] The creation of this committee could provide opportunities for improvements and innovation in long-term care facilities and services in Georgia.

As the elderly population grows, it is imperative that we maintain sustainable infrastructure for long-term care opportunities. Our current systems are not equipped to handle the demand. The Georgia General Assembly, through HR 141, is pursuing opportunities to reform long-term care in the state. The financial burden of long-term care must be addressed by the state and managed to protect our elderly.