While there are many of these facilities across the country, they are all usually expensive. ALF’s in the mid-west tend to be cheaper than in the northeast or Pacific coast, but even the cheapest such facility is around $5,000 per month. This is often something that many seniors and their families can’t afford to pay. Fortunately, there are some government programs available that can offer assistance. The most common of these programs are discussed below.
This is a special housing program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is a nation wide program of subsidized housing for low income seniors over the age of 62 and includes ALF projects. Although the federal government funds the program, the money is distributed at the state and local levels to nonprofit organizations that build affordable housing for seniors. Such housing projects must meet HUD guidelines to be classified as an ALF. They typically offer a range of services and activities to support seniors, including dining options, transportation, and housekeeping. Prospective residents need to apply directly to the community organization or facility that they are interested in.
Medicaid is primarily a government program, run on the state level, to provide medical care and assistance to low income residents of that state, including seniors. However, Medicaid will also help pay fore the cost of an ALF in over 40 states. This trend is growing, because it is less expensive to help seniors be in an ALF versus a skilled nursing facility. However, exactly what kind of assistance varies from state to state. In some states, Medicaid pays for only personal care services in assisted living. In other states, the size of the community is regulated. Some states limit the size of the ALF size to small, adult foster care-type homes, while other states limit assisted living to larger residences serving twelve or more persons. Still, other states have no regulations at all related to the number of residents. Prospective residents must apply for assistance through their local Medicaid office.
Regular Medicare does not cover expenses for an ALF, but Medicare Advantage (MA) programs often do. MA is an optional Medicare program that has to be applied for and a monthly premium is required. As of 2019, MA plans may provide “daily maintenance” benefits for those who reside in an “in-home setting”. While the government does not offer a clear definition of an “in-home setting”, it is believed that assisted living facilities are considered as such. Therefore, one’s MA plan may cover expenses for services typically found in an ALF, such as medical and non-medical transportation and assistance with daily living activities – like bathing, dressing, eating, laundry, and light housecleaning.
Social Security itself does not provide benefits to cover ALF expenses. However, there are several states that offer special supplemental social security programs. These state-specific Social Security programs can help families with the cost of assisted living. Typically, they assist by increasing or supplementing the amount of Social Security benefit payment the beneficiary receives if they reside in an assisted living facility.
Most states have special senior housing programs, with some of them offering assistance for low income seniors to live in an ALF. Some of these states have their own government run assisted living communities and provide rooms to qualifying individuals at a price that’s much less than at a privately run home. In other states, money is provided directly to the recipient and can be used for housing, including paying for assisted living care. Interested seniors need to apply through their local Area on Aging Agency.
Seniors who are veterans and their spouses or widows may qualify for aid from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This aid may cover some of the services provided by an assisted living facility. Known as Aid and Attendance (A&A), this benefit is a monthly, needs-based payment above and beyond the VA pension that can help cover the costs of long-term care.