Acute care and long-term care represent two ends of the spectrum in the continuum of care. Acute care is medical care designed to treat and/or cure an acute condition, for example, a heart attack or stroke. Treatment is usually provided by a doctor in a hospital. Long-term care, on the other hand, includes skilled, therapeutic and personal care services and supports that may be needed by a person whose physical and/or mental condition limits their ability to function independently.
As such, there is a big difference between acute care and long-term care in terms of who receives care, where and by whom the care is provided, the care need, the goal of care and how care is paid for.
|Variable||Acute Care||Long-term Care|
|Demographic||Anyone||Primarily the elderly and those with disabilities|
|Provider||Hospitals, out-patient clinics, physician offices, physicians, nurse practitioners||Skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, home care, nurses, therapists, paraprofessionals|
|Care Need||Acute conditions, infections, diseases, accidents||Functional limitations due to chronic conditions, recovery process or permanent disability|
|Goal of Care||Treatment and cure||Functional improvement through therapy and/or ongoing assistance with functional limitations to achieve the highest quality of life possible|
|Payer||Medical insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration||Private pay, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, Veterans Administration, Veteran’s benefits and pensions, some employer-provided medical insurance|
Medicare vs. Medicaid Coverage for Long-Term Care
Medicare is medical insurance for those over 65, the blind and disabled. It covers the skilled care and therapy component of long-term care, as well as some personal care on a short term basis. Medicare does not cover ongoing custodial or personal care.
Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term care. It is a needs-based benefit for those who have exhausted their personal resources and meet income, asset and other eligibility requirements.