Lifecare vs. Continuing Care

Lifecare vs. Continuing Care:

What’s the difference?

life-cont-care_1Lifecare. Continuing care. Continuum of care. These can be confusing terms for retirees searching for the best retirement living options in Maine. There are, however, important distinctions between retirement communities offering lifecare, those offering continuing care and those claiming to offer a continuum of care from independent living to assisted living and skilled nursing care. Savvy retirees need to understand these distinctions.

Both lifecare retirement communities and those that are legitimate continuing care retirement communities in Maine are required to obtain a certificate of authority from the Maine Superintendent of Insurance in order to offer continuing care in Maine. As such, no retirement communities may use the names “continuing care retirement community” or “lifecare community” unless a certificate of authority has been issued by the Superintendent.

Here’s what you need to know.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) – A CCRC is a senior housing option that offers a full or partial continuum of care designed to meet residents’ healthcare needs as they change over time. CCRCs usually offer some combination of independent residences, assisted living and/or a licensed nursing home. The monthly fee increases substantially for assisted living and nursing care as CCRCs typically charge residents current market rates for higher levels of care.

Lifecare Retirement Community. A lifecare community, like Piper Shores, is a type of retirement community that offers a full continuum of care designed to meet residents’ healthcare needs as they change over time. A lifecare community typically includes independent residences, assisted living residences and a licensed nursing home – all on one campus. The lifecare designation – unlike a CCRC – refers to a specific license covered by a continuing care agreement that authorizes a long-term care insurance component as part of the contract for residency. This lifecare insurance component ensures that the monthly fees are fixed, subject only to annual increases established for all residents. The Maine Bureau of Insurance regulates Lifecare Retirement Communities in Maine.

A lifecare community may use the terms lifecare community or continuing care retirement community when referring to its retirement living community, but a continuing care community may not use the term “lifecare” when referring to its retirement community. Clear as mud? Let’s continue.

Lifecare and continuing care retirement communities offer different continuing care agreements.

In Maine there are only two kinds of retirement communities that qualify for certification as a continuing care retirement community – a lifecare retirement community and a continuing care retirement community. Both provide a “continuing care agreement,” but certification as a lifecare community is the more stringent of the two. To qualify as a lifecare retirement community in Maine, the retirement community offers a continuing care agreement that provides for the following services:

  •  Full and lifetime prepaid health care, prepaid supportive services and shelter that include a true continuum of care from independent living through nursing home care;
  • A maintenance fee that may not increase (excepting annual increases applicable to all members of the community and increases resulting from the selection of optional services offered by the community) regardless of the level of services provided the retiree or change in the retiree’s accommodations;
  • Neither the retiree nor any third party (excepting the retiree’s insurer) is liable for the cost of health care or supportive services, other than optional services, provided by the retirement community;
  • The retirement community provides full and lifetime health care, supportive services and shelter without reduction so long as a retiree has not intentionally depleted the community’s resources.

Retirement communities that do not meet all of these requirements may not refer to themselves as lifecare retirement communities. By meeting some of these requirements and following the strict statutes of Maine law governing continuing care retirement communities, a community may offer a less comprehensive continuing care agreement and still be considered a continuing care retirement community.