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AARP Expert

10 Tips on the Financial Matters of Caregiving - TIP #2: Understand What Home Care Medicare Covers

I've worked in the field of aging for nearly 40 years, but not as a Medicare expert. So when I got more involved in caring for my parents, I found that, while I understood the basics of Medicare, there were some things I needed to learn more about. The same would be true for you as a caregiver.


I urge you to become familiar with what Medicare (and Medicaid) does (and doesn't) pay for in terms of in-home care ahead of time. Then you'll be more prepared for the costs of caregiving. 


For example, many people believe that Medicare will pay for the costs of in-home paid caregivers and home health aides on an ongoing basis to help your loved ones as they age. But Medicare does not generally pay for that type of ongoing care. Medicare isn't designed to provide 24/7 care.


If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, most states have a Medicaid "waiver" to use Medicaid funds for in-home services for people who qualify for a skilled nursing level of care but who wish to remain at home. If eligible and the state provides for it, your loved ones enrolled in Medicaid may be able to get more in-home care paid for. 


Here are some resources to help you understand what types of in-home care Medicare and Medicaid cover:


A fantastic free local resource to help you make Medicare choices, understand coverage and decipher bills etc. are the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP). They also often help with Medicaid. The website includes a SHIP Locator Tool. The SHIP volunteers are incredibly well trained and knowledgable. Family caregivers have told me many stories of how the SHIP counselor helped them and saved their loved ones a great deal of money as well. 


Keep in mind that Medicare and Medicaid change often. The federal government makes changes, and the states administer Medicaid, so Medicaid coverage varies and changes across states. So it's a good idea to contact your state Medicaid office for details. 


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving


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