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Episode Info: Stephanie’s father-in-law, a Danish citizen, is currently moving into assisted living just outside of Copenhagen. His flat is only $1,000 per month, and the home help and rehabilitation he’ll receive is totally free of charge. We wondered about the differences between the U.S. and Denmark’s longterm care system, so we invited a special guest to join this episode: Jon Kvist, a professor at Roskilde University and expert on Danish social welfare systems. We talk about how the Danish longterm care system works and contrast it to what is covered under Medicare and Medicaid here in the United States. Show Notes Depending on the state, anywhere from 40% to 60% (or more) of coronavirus deaths in the United States are taking place in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes [note: Ben incorrectly said 50 to 60% on the podcast]. This is due, in part, to our terrible system of long-term care (at least as bad as our medical care system!). Stephanie’s father-in-law is being transitioned to an assisted living facility. Fortunately, he’s Danish, where long-term care is covered as a right – just like healthcare. His only expense will be roughly $1,000 per month for rent of his new apartment. We introduce a special guest to the program: Jon Kvist, a professor at Roskilde University, and an expert on the long-term care system in Denmark. First things first: What is long-term care (or LTC)? “Long-term care generally refers to non-medical care (ie, custodial care) for patients who need assistance with basic daily activities such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom. Long-term care may be provided at home or in facilities that include nursing homes and assisted living.” Who gets access to long-term care? Here in the United States, almost no one. Medicare – our public healthcare program for seniors and some people with disabilities – incredibly does not cover long-term care! Most people have to get LTC through Medicaid – which means making yourself poor. Professor Kvist tells us that Denmark has a universal system for long-term care. If you can demonstrate a need for long-term care, it will be covered largely for free – so it is purely needs-based. LTC in Denmark is run at the local level, so it varies somewhat by “municipality” – although the richer municipalities redistribute their funds to the poorer municipalities. By European standards, the Danish government spends a lot on LTC – almost 3% of their total economic spending. But as Professor Kvist points out, if you don’t cover LTC publicly, a lot of care will be paid for privately OR provided informally by family members – particularly women are forced into this role. American couples are supposed to save over $240,000 for long-term care and medical costs alone if they want to retire by age 65. How much does the average Dane have to save for retirement? “Close to $0” says Professor Kvist. When you retire in Denmark, you will be taken care of, with the unde...
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