Assisted living facilities are a housing option for people who can still live independently but who need some assistance. Costs 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 actually 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, 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 of assisted living, although non-Medicaid assistance may be available.
Nevertheless, the level and type of support varies widely from state to state. 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 typically cover other services provided by assisted living facilities. These may include, depending on the state, coverage of nursing care, personal care, case management, medication management, and medical assessments and exams.
In many states, this coverage is not delivered by the regular Medicaid program but under “waiver” programs, which may permit much higher income eligibility thresholds than regular Medicaid. 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. And 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.
For Paying for Senior Care’s page on assisted living benefits, including its state-by-state guide to Medicaid’s coverage of assisted living facilities, click here.