Yesterday the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs introduced new national polling of Americans 40 or older that illustrates how disconnected many of us are from reality when it comes to aging and costs that can come with it.

Key findings include:

  •  It Won’t Happen to Me: Only a quarter of us think we’ll need some type of help getting around or other supportive services, yet more than half of the respondents had provided care services for a relative or friend., and half think just about everyone will need some assistance. (Government figures show 7 in 10 of us will need some care services at some point, with the average being three years.)

  • Misunderstanding of Medicare:  44% think Medicare will pay for ongoing homecare services. Unfortunately, it won’t. 
  •  Medicaid is Many People's Long-Term Care Policy:  Fewer than half of those polled think they’ll ever need Medicaid. But the reality is Medicaid (called Medical Assistance in Minnesota), the federal-state program for people living in poverty, is the main payer of long-term care. To qualify, you have to exhaust most of your life savings. ( In the 2007 Ecumen Age Wave poll of Minnesota Baby Boomers only 5% of boomers said they’d access Medicaid – yet today 40% of the state’s long-term care costs are paid by Medicaid.)
  • Few of Us Planning: 65% of us have done little or no planning for these potential costs. 
        Minnesota needs a strategy for how we pay for costs of supportive services that provide maximum independence and dignity when we most need them. Making Medicaid a safety net, not a default insurance plan, would be a good step.

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