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As the baby boomers age, spending on long-term care for the elderly could quadruple by 2050. The growing demand for long-term care will put pressure on federal and state budgets because long-term care relies heavily on public financing, particularly Medicaid. Nursing home care traditionally has accounted for most Medicaid long-term care expenditures, but the high costs of such care and the preference of many individuals to stay in their own homes has led states to expand their Medicaid programs to provide coverage for home- and community-based long-term care. GAO found that a Medicaid-eligible elderly individual with the same disabling conditions, care needs, and availability of informal family support could find significant differences in the type and intensity of home and community-based services that would be offered for his or her care. These differences were due in part to the very nature of long-term care needs--which can involve physical or cognitive disabling conditions--and the lack of a consensus as to what services are needed to compensate for these disabilities and what balance should exist between publicly available and family-provided services. The differences in care plans were also due to decisions that states have made in designing their Medicaid long-term care programs and the resources devoted to them. The case managers GAO contacted generally offered care plans that relied on in-home services rather than other residential care settings. However, the in-home services offered varied considerably.

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