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Will Social Security Cover Nursing Home Costs
Social Security can Help Cover Nursing Home Costs

Social Security

If you or a family member faces the need for nursing home care and have limited assets, you can use Social Security to help pay for some cost.

Unfortunately, the costs of nursing home services are staggering, and daily rates are hundreds of dollars per day. According to the government's latest National Nursing Home Survey, the average nursing home stay is 835 days or more than two years.

The costs are different in each state and depending upon your location, the daily rates vary.

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance:

  • One in 10 residents ages 75 to 84 stays in a nursing home for five or more years
  • Three in 10 residents in that age group stay less than 100 days, the maximum covered by Medicare for convalescent care

How Social Security Pays for Nursing Home Care

Social Security
Social Security

Before discussing how Social Security pays for nursing home care, let's clear up the confusion about Social Security Benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

A senior might be eligible for both, potentially, but first know they are different programs.

Social Security Benefit

It's an "entitlement" program, meaning people who work, the employers, and the self-employed worker pays for the benefits with their Social Security taxes. The taxes collected during the working years and put into a special trust fund.

An employee qualifies for the benefits based on his work history (or his spouse's or parent's). The amount received calculated on his or their earnings.

Supplemental Security Income

It's a needs-based program for people with limited income and resources. Resources are assets that you own. The program's paid by general tax revenues -- not from the Social Security trust funds.

The benefits amount, based on Federal and State laws, and take into account where you live, who lives with you and what income you receive.

Here's the difference between the two programs:

Social Security

  • Benefits based on earnings
  • Financed by employer and wage contributions
  • No income limit
  • No resource limit
  • Must have enough work credits
  • Medicare • Benefit Types: -- Retirement (age 62 & older) -- Survivor -- Disability (includes blindness)
  • Provides benefits to eligible family members
  • Benefits amount based on average lifetime earnings
  • Other income does NOT affect benefits (Except wages may affect benefits under full retirement age or disability benefits)
  • Where you live or who lives with you does NOT affect benefits


  • Benefits based on need
  • Financed by General Revenues
  • Limited income
  • Limited resources
  • No work credits required
  • Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California)
  • The benefits Types: -- Aged (age 65 and older) -- Disability (any age, includes children) -- Blindness (any age, includes children)
  • No family benefits
  • The benefits amount based on Federal and State laws
  • Other income MAY affect benefits - report any income you receive
  • Where you live or who lives with you MAY change benefits - report all changes

If you have questions about either program to see if you qualify, contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. They're happy to answer questions. Call or visit the local Social Security office. To find the address of your local office, call the local number or visit,

Paying for Nursing Home Costs

If you depend on your Social Security to pay for assisted living, it's not enough.

The average benefit(s) received in the form of a Social Security check for a retired worker is $1,230, and for a couple, it is $2,045. Both are short of the cost of assisted living. And if one spouse requires care in a nursing home facility, and the other remains home, it's certain the benefit will not cover living expenses for both.

Hardly enough when the average cost of nursing homes is over $6,000 per month, depending on where you live.

As seniors and families begin to look at the monetary assets available, they find themselves plunged into unfamiliar territory.

Another source of supplemental income from the federal government is (SSI), Supplemental Security Income (also known as Title XVI). A senior must be at least 65 years of age to apply. It's a needs-based program that provides a monthly check to persons who are blind, elderly, or disabled. SSI is only available to persons with a very low-income and asset limits.

The average SSI for an individual is a little over $700/month and for a couple it is over $1000/month. To learn if you are eligible to apply: Check out the Social Security disability program.

If you're 65 or over and receive Supplemental Security Income, you may apply for Medicaid that can assist you in paying for nursing home care. It is a federally funded program for low-income Americans and the biggest payer for the room, board, nursing care, and social activities in nursing homes.

Read more information on planning your long-term care using Social Security - Smart Steps on Managing Your Monthly Social Security Check.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.