Caring Currents

Medicare Headaches

Last updated: May 23, 2008

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Trying to figure out how to pay for nursing home care in this country can be a major headache. Jayantibhai Patel's father would certainly agree.

Mr. Patel, of Foster City, Calif., allegedly hit his 81-year-old father over the head with a hammer in what local authorities are saying may have been a misguided attempt to get his father admitted into a nursing home.

"He was under a belief, we don't know why, that you can't go straight into a nursing home without being in the hospital," says Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County's chief deputy district attorney, in the San Francisco Chronicle

But Mr. Patel wasn't entirely incorrect, according to blogger Felicia Curran. Under Medicare regulations, government health insurance will pay for nursing home care -- but only after a three day stay in the hospital.

As she explains in her post at the Elder Neglect Blog, "there was a method to his madness.  Nursing [homes] charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars a day, something out of the reach of the average person. Medicare, however, will pay for up to 100 days in a nursing home, but only if the patient comes to the nursing home from a three-day stay in a hospital."

So is assault with a deadly weapon the only path to Medicare-covered nursing care? Obviously not, but there's no denying that the rules and regulations of the government health insurance program are sometimes baffling.

Luckily, there's help navigating the Medicare maze. Before  you start rifling through the tool chest, check out these resources:

Image courtesy of Flickr user ZoofyTheJinx under the Creative Commons licensing agreement.