Assisted living facilities are a housing option for people who can still live independently but who need some help. Costs for these facilities can range from $2,000 to more than $6,000 a month, depending on location. Medicare won’t pay for this type of care, but Medicaid might. Almost all state Medicaid programs will cover at least some assisted living costs for eligible residents.
Unlike with nursing home stays, there is no requirement that Medicaid pay for assisted living, and no state Medicaid program can pay directly for a Medicaid recipient’s room and board in an assisted living facility. But with assisted living costs roughly half those of a semi-private nursing home room, state officials understand that they can save money by offering financial assistance to elderly individuals who are trying to stay out of nursing homes.
As of May 2016, 46 states and the District of Columbia provided some level of financial assistance to individuals in assisted living, according to the website Paying for Senior Care (www.payingforseniorcare.com), which features a “State by State Guide to Medicaid Coverage for Assisted Living Benefits” that gives details on each state’s programs. According to the website, the Medicaid programs of Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania are the only ones that provide no coverage for assisted living, although non-Medicaid assistance may be available.
The level and type of support varies widely from state to state. Because they are prevented from paying directly for room and board, some states have devised other strategies to help Medicaid recipients defray the cost of assisted living, including capping the amount Medicaid-certified facilities can charge or offering Medicaid-eligible individuals supplemental assistance for room and board costs paid for out of general state funds. States also typically cover other services provided by assisted living facilities, which may include nursing care, personal care, case management, medication management, and medical assessments and exams.
In many states, this coverage is not part of the regular Medicaid program but is delivered under programs that allow the state to waive certain federal rules, such as permitting higher income eligibility thresholds than regular Medicaid does. To qualify for one of these waiver programs, applicants almost always must have care needs equivalent to those of nursing home residents. These waiver programs also often have a limited number of enrollment slots, meaning that waiting lists are common. In some states, the support programs may cover only certain regions of the state. One state’s definition of “assisted living” may differ from another’s, or other terms may be used, such as “residential care,” “personal care homes,” “adult foster care” and “supported living.”
If your state does not cover room and board at an assisted living facility, help may be available through state-funded welfare programs or programs run by religious organizations. If the resident is a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran, the resident’s long-term care may be covered through the VA’s Aid and Attendance pension benefit.