One Woman’s Slide From Middle Class to Medicaid

DEDHAM, Mass. — A dozen or so years into retirement, Rita Sherman had plenty going for her financially.

Recently widowed, she had a net worth of roughly $600,000 as of 1998. Her health was excellent, and she dutifully purchased a long-term care insurance policy that would cover three years of nursing home costs should she ever need help. Watching over it all was her daughter, a medical social worker, and her son-in-law, a financial planner.

By the time she died at the age of 94 last year, however, all of the money was gone after a diagnosis of dementia and five and a half years in a nursing home. Like so many people who never see it coming, she’d gone from being financially comfortable to qualifying for Medicaid.

This is the same Medicaid that our representatives in Washington are aiming to cut right now. While there is no telling how the debate over health care legislation will end, it ought to matter plenty to everyone who hopes to grow old and is not certain that their savings could last for decades. While many people don’t realize it until well into old age, it is Medicaid, not Medicare, that pays for most nursing home and community or home-based care for older adults who run out of money.

Marcia Perna, Ms. Sherman’s daughter, and her husband, Michael, were acutely aware of this fact from decades of work at their day jobs, but it was not something that they imagined they would personally encounter.

- New York Times

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