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Many Americans Worry About Cost of Long-Term Care: Poll

Most are mistaken about how costs are covered, Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey finds

NORWALK, Conn., (September 30, 2013) -- More than two-thirds of Americans are anxious and uncertain about how they'll meet nursing home or home care costs should they need them, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.

Most respondents were also unaware about how most of these costs are covered under the current system. About half (49 percent) mistakenly thought the bulk of the bill was paid by individuals, while a third guessed Medicare. Only 19 percent understood that the major funder of long-term care is actually Medicaid, the government agency that covers health services for the poor.

One thing most respondents agreed upon: as America ages, the problem of how to pay for seniors' long-term care will only worsen.

Howard Gleckman, a fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., said, "This is a huge and growing problem." There are currently 12 million Americans in some form of long-term care, and that's expected to double within the next 20 years.

It's estimated that most Americans -- more than two-thirds of those age 65 and up -- will need some type of long-term care, such as a nursing home, home health aide, or adult "day care" center.

The issue of how to pay for rising costs of senior care was ultimately not addressed by the Affordable Care Act. With the age of the average voter steadily rising, "how we will pay for long-term care in the future is likely to become a huge political issue," added Harris Poll chairman Humphrey Taylor.

The poll found that 64 percent of Americans think "most people" should buy long-term care insurance. However, Gleckman noted that less than 8 percent of U.S. adults have bought long-term care insurance.

Dr. Joanne Lynn, director of the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness at the non-profit Altarum Institute said, "This will be the most expensive part of most of our lives," and "yet insurance does not cover it -- at least not until the person has spent down to poverty, when Medicaid will pitch in."

Everyone agreed that long-term care will become more complex in the years to come. Not only will there be more elderly Americans in need, there will also be fewer family caregivers. "Lower birth rates mean there are going to be fewer and fewer adult children available to provide care," Gleckman said.

The poll included 2,013 U.S adults over age 18 surveyed online between Sept, 10-12, 2013 by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms. HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of daily health news.

The complete findings of the newest joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll are available here. HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

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HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is one of the largest health news syndicators to Internet sites. Its daily consumer health news service appears on more than 5,000 websites such as Yahoo!, MSN Health, USNews.com, Everyday Health, and government websites like Healthfinder.gov, and MedlinePlus. A daily video version of the top health news story of the day is featured on HealthDay TV, a 90-second daily news broadcast appearing on several major media and U.S. government websites.

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About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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