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.
Long-term care facilities include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities, which provide both personal care and medical care. Georgia has 357 long-term care facilities that provide services to over 40,000 residents. 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.
Most often, older adults pay out-of-pocket for services in long-term care facilities. 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. Medicare does not cover long-term care services.
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.” 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. 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.
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. The demand for staff for long-term care is increasing but there are not enough caregivers to meet this demand. 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. 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. 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.” 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. 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.