Nursing Homes in Alaska
Affectionately known as the Last Frontier, Alaska beckons retirees with its pristine landscapes, rich natural beauty and unique lifestyle. The state has a population of 731,545, including more than 90,000 senior citizens. Residents have access to a strong health care system with 27 major hospitals, including the high-performing Alaska Native Medical Center and the Providence Alaska Medical Center both in Anchorage. The state has 20 licensed long-term care facilities that serve approximately 500 residents at any given time.
Nursing facilities and skilled nursing facilities in Alaska provide 24-hour nursing care and medical services to residents who have an illness, disease or medical infirmity. The average cost of these services is $37,413 per month for a semiprivate room and $36,378 for a private room, which is four to five times higher than the national average. This guide explores the cost of nursing homes in Alaska along with financial assistance programs and free resources that can help you find the care you need.
The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Alaska
According to Genworth Financial’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, nursing homes in Alaska charge $37,413 per month for around-the-clock care. Provider responses show that rates are 4.8 times higher than the U.S. median of $7,756. Prices are also significantly higher than other states on the West Coast. Alaska’s nursing homes are about three times more expensive than those in Hawaii where seniors pay $12,015 per month of care. Oregon is more expensive than its neighbors California and Washington. However, nursing home care in the state costs $27,299 less per month than Alaska, an annual savings of over $327,000. Seniors who are looking for similar quality of life at a lower cost may consider Montana where nursing homes charge $7,665 per month, slightly less than the U.S. average.
The United States
Since Alaska has just two metropolitan statistical areas, data on local and regional long-term care costs is limited. Seniors in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, pay $31,664 per month for nursing home care. This represents a monthly savings of $5,749 or 15% over the state median. Although Anchorage and Juneau are more affordable than average, nursing home prices are still several times higher than other principal West Coast cities, including Bellingham, Washington, at $8,517; Seattle, WA, at $10,624, and Portland, Oregon, at $10,083.
Long-term care prices vary widely in Alaska. Nursing homes are the most expensive option with a median monthly cost of $37,413. Assisted living costs $6,633 per month. Compared to nursing home care, rates seem reasonable. However, assisted living costs 54% more than other parts of the country. In-home care provided by a homemaker or home health aide costs $5,339-$5,346 per month, which is similar to the U.S. median, and adult day care costs $3,055 per month, about twice the national average.
Home Health Care
Adult Day Care
Assisted Living Facility
Nursing Home Care
Financial Assistance for Nursing Home Care in Alaska
Most people do not pay for skilled nursing care entirely out-of-pocket. Rather, they utilize financial assistance programs to help cover the cost of nursing care. Of public financial assistance programs, Medicaid provides the most comprehensive coverage of nursing home care. But not all seniors are eligible for Medicaid. And because each state operates its own Medicaid program within federal guidelines, eligibility and benefits vary from state to state. Below, we provide more information on Medicaid in Alaska.
Alaska’s Medicaid Program
DenaliCare is a state and federal program that provides health insurance to 235,000 low-income adults and children statewide. Since health care legislation changed in 2013, Medicaid enrollment has increased by more than 92%. It currently covers about 22% of the state’s total population. In addition to helping with the cost of preventive and emergency medical care, routine dental services, vision and prescription medications, Medicaid is a vital resource for residents who require long-term care. The program covers 83% of the state’s 500 nursing home residents, and at least 17 of the state’s 20 nursing facilities are authorized to accept Medicaid as payment. The state also offers a Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waiver known as Alaskans Living Independently that covers the cost of specialized private-duty nursing, personal care and related services provided in the beneficiary’s home or another residential setting. This program also pays for accessibility modifications, specialized equipment and technology.
Medicaid Eligibility in Alaska
Medicaid long-term care benefits are available to Alaska residents who meet income and asset limits and require a nursing home level of care. To qualify for this program, you must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or legal alien. Income is capped at $2,382 per month or 300% of the Federal Benefit Rate, with an asset limit of $2,000 for individuals. Applicants must use nearly all of their income for long-term care, excluding a $200 personal needs allowance and funds needed to support a spouse. You can learn more about the application process online at My.Alaska.gov or by calling the Medicaid Senior Benefits office in Wasilla at (907) 352-4150.
Alternative Financial Assistance Options
- Medicare: Medicare will cover the cost of one’s care in a skilled nursing facility for the first 20 days of their stay, and a portion of the costs up until day 100. After 100 days, the individual is responsible for all costs. Seniors must also have a “qualifying hospital stay” of at least 3 days prior to their admission to a nursing home in order to qualify for Medicare coverage.
- Aid and Attendance: Veterans who receive a VA pension may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans receive in addition to their standard pension amount. The benefit is intended for veterans in need of long-term care services and may be used towards paying for skilled nursing care.
- Reverse Mortgages: If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for nursing care. Reverse mortgages are loans that one can take out against the value of their home, essentially converting some of the home’s equity into cash. This type of funding can be especially useful for married couples when only one partner needs nursing care, as the other residents of the home may continue living there. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.
- Long-Term Care Insurance: Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be covered for skilled nursing care. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost of nursing home care, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of skilled nursing care will not be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.
Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Alaska
Families in Alaska have access to a number of resources that can help them find nursing home care and plan for their current and future needs. You can learn more about your options by contacting the following agencies.
|Aging and Disability Resource Centers||(855) 565-2017||Alaska has six regional Aging and Disability Resource Centers that connect seniors and disabled adults to free and low-cost long-term services and supports sponsored by the state and federal government. The ADRC can provide information about in-home care, curb-to-curb transportation and delivered meals. It’s also responsible for managing the state’s long-term care waivers.|
|Alaska Commission on Aging||(907) 465-4879||The Commission on Aging engages in outreach and advocacy to ensure that older adults have access to resources that help them live safely at home and in the community. It works with public and private professionals as well as members of the public to develop a statewide plan on aging. Activities are also designed to benefit caregivers and strengthen the health care system.|
|Denakkanaaga||(907) 451-3900||Denakkanaaga, which means “our people speak” in native Alaskan, is dedicated to giving elder Doyon and Tanana residents a voice in the community and the state. This nonprofit serves tribal elders across the interior through peer-to-peer support groups, cultural programs and pro-aging advocacy related to regional issues. It offers information and referrals to older adults in select geographic areas through Title VI funding, and it sponsors intergenerational activities, including beading groups and an elder-youth conference.|
|Alaska’s Medicare Information Office||(800) 478-6065||Medicare beneficiaries and first-time enrollees can turn to the Medicare Information Office for free, unbiased advice and educational resources. This agency offers one-on-one plan comparisons through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, and it’s home to the state’s Senior Medicare Patrol, which helps beneficiaries detect billing errors and fraud. Counselors can provide more information about Medicare’s nursing home benefits as well as private long-term care insurance.|
|Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman||(907) 334-4480||Based in Anchorage, the Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman is a volunteer-based service network available to individuals who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and those who are in need of these services. These independent advocates help seniors understand and exercise their rights. They challenge discharge and eviction orders, help residents access less restrictive care and handle issues related to guardianship and health care decision-making.|
|Alaska Legal Services Corporation||(907) 272-9431||The ALSC provides free legal advice to adults age 60 or older through its Elder Law Project. This initiative focuses on housing, advance planning, consumer rights and public benefits, including Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and food stamps. Informational services are available online, by phone or by visiting one of the organization’s 13 regional offices.|
Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Alaska
|Licensing||Nursing homes in Alaska are licensed by the Health Facilities Licensing and Certification unit, which is part of the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Health Care Services. This agency is responsible for certifying health care facilities and upholding the state’s long-term care regulations.|
|Staffing||Alaska has strict minimum staffing standards based on the size of the facility. Nursing homes must have an on-duty RN seven days a week and at least five evenings per week. An on-site LPN and an on-call RN must be available at all other times. Requirements may vary for facilities with fewer than 14 beds, more than 60 beds or those that are part of a larger medical center.|
|Staff Training||Nursing homes must maintain records showing that all medical professionals have appropriate licenses or certifications. Facilities must provide in-service training for all staff members as well as records of these activities. Alaska requires a comprehensive criminal background check for all direct-care workers, and certified nursing assistants in the state must have at least 140 hours of training, which is nearly double the federal minimum.|
|Admission Restrictions||Facilities must have written policies and procedures governing the admissions process. They may only admit residents whose needs they can meet safety through on-site services and community resources.|
|Care Planning||Facilities must develop a comprehensive plan of care within 14 days of admission. The plan of care must be reviewed by a nurse and approved by an interdisciplinary care team quarterly or more frequently if needed.|
|Dietary and Nutrition Services||Skilled nursing facilities that provide dietetic services must employ a qualified full-time dietician or dietetic supervisor. An RD must consult with the administrator, medical team and kitchen staff at least once every three months. Facilities must maintain individualized dietetic profiles for each resident, and they must provide sufficient food to meet residents’ medical and nutritional needs.|
|Specialized Rehabilitative Services||Nursing homes must provide specialized rehabilitative nursing services with the goal of helping residents’ achieve optimal self-sufficiency. Services may be provided by a physical, an occupational or a speech therapist who is employed full or part-time or as a consultant.|
|Medication and Pharmaceutical Services||Nursing homes must have licensed pharmacists review each residents’ medication regimen and drug history at least once every 30 days or more frequently if required.|
|Activities||Skilled nursing facilities must provide individualized recreational activities to all residents. These programs must address residents’ physical, emotional and cognitive needs and must be appropriate for their medical condition and abilities. Facilities must monitor residents’ participation, and the activity program coordinator must work with an interdisciplinary team to modify the resident’s activity plan as needed.|
|Infection Control||All health care facilities, excluding home health care agencies and hospice providers, must establish an infection control committee that’s responsible for establishing and maintaining written procedures for documenting, reporting and preventing the spread of infectious or communicable diseases.|
|Medicaid Coverage||DenaliCare, Alaska’s Medicaid program pays from nursing home care if individuals meet income and asset requirements and have a medical need.|