Continuing care retirement communities(CCRCs) are becoming a popular choice for those retirees who are independent today, but want to have a plan in place for the future. What distinguishes a CCRC from other retirement communities is the fact that they contractually provide a “continuum of care,” including independent living, assisting living, and/or skilled nursing care. Choosing the right CCRC is a significant life decision, but often, researching your options can leave you with more questions than answers.

A source of confusion for many prospective CCRC residents is the difference between a “Medicare-certified” facility and a “private-pay only” facility. Simply put, a Medicare-certified facility has met the federal minimum requirements for patient care and management, including administration, clinical services, standards of excellence, and more.

As it relates to facility-based care, Medicare certification is only applicable to skilled nursing facilities(SNFs) – often referred to as nursing homes- who are licensed in their respective state to offer 24-hour medical care provided by a registered nurse or rehabilitative staff, including procedures such as IV and drug administration, wound care, lab tests, physical therapy, and more. Therefore, if a CCRC describes itself as Medicare-certified it is likely referring to the skilled nursing unit within the CCRC. Such certification, or lack thereof, has no bearing on the independent living or assisted living phases of the CCRC.

Prospective residents of a continuing care retirement community(CCRC) are sometimes scared away when they learn that the facility is not Medicare-certified but the financial impact may be less than initially feared. Next week I will walk through an example to show the potential financial impact of moving to a CCRC that is not Medicare-certified compared to moving to one that is.

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