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 New Numbers Show Much Higher Rates of Skilled Nursing Facility Use

RAND Corporation researchers said in a new report that the average American’s chance of using a skilled nursing facility (SNF) over the course of their lifetime is much higher than previous studies suggested. This could be because of the increased prevalence of so-called short stays in SNFs, the authors of the study said.

Among persons age 57 to 61, 56 percent will stay in a SNF at least one night during their lifetime, the findings said. The data, which was published online by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, differs from Department of Health and Human Services' estimates that only 35 percent of older Americans are likely to use a SNF in their later years.

“It is important to provide individuals and families a reliable assessment of the likelihood of entering a nursing home in retirement,” said Michael Hurd, lead author of the study and a senior principal researcher at RAND. “This information could help people make better decisions about how they or their loved ones will pay for the care they are likely to need.”

RAND reviewed 18 years of data drawn from the Health and Retirement Study, a project of the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration, and found that for most people, SNF care will be relatively affordable at about $7,300 per person over a lifetime.

“Only about one-third of Americans between the ages of 57 and 61 will spend any of their money on nursing home care over their lifetimes, while 43 percent will be completely covered by private or public insurance,” the report said.

Further, the authors said the recent shift toward shorter stays in SNFs may be the reason for the higher estimate of SNF use. RAND said SNF stays of short duration (21 nights or fewer) rose from 28 percent in 1998 to nearly 34 percent in 2010.

Hurd said the increase may be due to efforts to control Medicare and Medicaid costs by more quickly discharging patients from acute-care hospitals to SNFs, where rehabilitation costs are lower.

Read the RAND report at​

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