- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

Frederick and Montgomery counties have the most expensive nursing homes in the D.C. area, according to a recent study.

Most of the rates for private rooms in the area’s nursing homes were “moderately expensive,” with an average daily cost of $194.48, according to a May study from Richmond insurance company Genworth Financial Inc. The study was re-released yesterday.

Montgomery and Frederick counties were “most expensive” because of their $203.36 average daily rate.

Rates for assisted-living facilities in the counties averaged slightly less at $185.55 a day, the study said.

“I think Americans really aren’t aware that all aspects of long-term care continue to go up,” said Buck Stinson, president for Genworth’s long-term-care business.

The company commissioned CareScout, a Wellesley, Mass., elder-care consulting company, to conduct the study. CareScout surveyed more than 7,000 nursing homes, assisted-living communities and home-care providers nationwide about their cost of care between April and May.

The study was released as Genworth, with 15 million customers, lobbies Congress to pass bills in the House and Senate that would give some form of tax deduction to long-term insurance policyholders.

But Elizabeth Clemmer, with the senior citizens lobby AARP, said long-term health insurance often is not an affordable option for the elderly who need nursing home care.

“You have a lot of people with enormous expenses who can’t even afford health insurance right now,” said Ms. Clemmer, associate director for AARP’s public policy institute. “The [long-term insurance] rates are lower for people when they’re younger, but they aren’t thinking that far ahead yet.”

States that show a high cost in nursing home and assisted living costs in the report also tend to have high cost-of-living and real estate expenses, Ms. Clemmer said.

The entire New England region, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Hawaii and parts of Delaware, Florida, Arizona, California and Washington state were labeled “most expensive” for the cost of private room care in nursing homes.

The report projected that the average costs for long-term care will increase 6 percent this year.

Part of the reason for the increase is the rising number of baby boomers who are expected to retire, Mr. Stinson said.

Patients staying in private rooms at a nursing home are expected to face an average annual cost of $69,400, or $190 a day, this year. That cost averaged $179 a day last year.

Elderly persons staying in assisted living facilities, which have been growing in popularity, are expected to have an average annual bill of $30,300 this year, the report said.

Eye drops halted

Bethesda pharmaceutical company Sucampo Pharmaceuticals Inc. last week suspended further development for its eye drops that treat dry-eye syndrome.

The company on June 24 halted work after the Food and Drug Administration expressed safety concerns about a prescription cream, which is already on the market, that contains the same compound found in Sucampo’s eye-drop product.

Sucampo said it will continue to talk with the FDA about resuming the drug’s development.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call Marguerite Higgins at 202/636-4892 or e-mail her at mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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