Retirement Warning: More Than 11 Million Middle-Income Seniors Face Assisted-Living Crisis in a Decade, Study Finds

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Seniors who fall into the middle-income bracket could face a huge problem 10 years from now, with many lacking the money to afford assisted living while also having too much money to qualify for government help.

By 203311.5 million middle-income seniors aged 75 and older might not be able to pay for assisted living and are unlikely to qualify for Medicaid to pay for long-term care needs, according to a study from NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent research institution.

The study, released in 2022 and funded by The Scan Foundation, found that in 2033, nearly three-quarters (72%) of middle-income seniors will have less than $65,000 in income and annuitized assets. That’s the average amount needed to pay for private assisted living and medical care. Even if these seniors sold their homes, 39% of them would still have insufficient resources to pay the yearly costs.

Many likely won’t qualify for Medicaid assistance, either, because the program is designed for lower-income Americans. Medicaid eligibility is based on a person’s Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) and varies by state.

As GOBankingRates previously reported, 38 states and Washington, D.C. had the same income limit of $2,523 per month (or $30,276 a year) for a single person for most types of Medicaid services in 2022. For a married couple, the limit in most cases was $5,046 a month or $60,552 a year. The income limit generally applies to people staying at nursing homes or receiving community-based services.

Medicaid income limits, combined with the rising cost of assisted living care, create a gap that many seniors will fall into. This is especially problematic for people 75 and older, who typically begin to suffer from deteriorating mobility, cognitive impairment and other health issues.

These conditions can make it challenging for seniors to live independently in their homes without additional caregiving support, the NORC report said. While many people rely on unpaid caregiving from family and friends, others will need paid support in the form of assisted living.

“Eleven-and-a-half million older adults won’t qualify for public assistance and will most likely be unable to pay for their long-term care and assisted living,” Dr. Sarita A. Mohanty, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, said in a statement. “Homeowners may be forced to sell their homes and even then, many will not be able to afford their needs.”

Other key findings from the study included the following:

  • Future seniors are less likely to be married, and many don’t have children living nearby.
  • Among middle-income seniors, more than half will have three or more chronic conditions, and 56% will have mobility limitations.
  • One in three seniors will face cognitive impairments, with that percentage growing to 40% for those 85 and older.

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