The outrageous cost of care is one of the biggest risks to those getting older. This question looms large in the mind of many who are of retirement age…
How will I (we) pay for care costs?
And many clients ask us…
Should we buy long-term care insurance?
There is a lot of confusion and fear around the long-term care insurance industry, but we still believe that long-term care insurance is the #1 best way to protect yourself from exorbitant care costs.
When we see a client who needs care and has long-term care insurance, it is usually a big relief! Their family already has plenty of things to sort out as far as the details of the care and the medical needs that are happening. When it comes to how to pay for it, all they do is sit back and let the insurance company write the checks. It’s a big load off for the family! And they get to focus on other important things during a really difficult time.
There are legal tools, like Nest Egg Trusts and VA and Medicaid benefit planning, that can be used to help plan for care costs. Long-term care insurance is just another financial tool that can be used. Some clients rely mostly on the legal tools and some rely mostly on the financial tool of long-term care insurance. Some clients rely on both types of tools — a kind of “belt and suspenders” approach to planning. We generally believe the more tools you have in the toolbox, the more effectively you can build a planning strategy.
How Does Long-term Care Insurance Work?
The industry has been in flux recently, creating a lot of fear around this topic. Currently, there are two types of long-term care insurance. One is kind of on its way out, and the other is more effectively addressing the problems that have emerged in the industry.
- Traditional long-term care insurance. You pay a premium on this policy, and when you need care, the insurance company pays so much a day or so much a month, for so many months OR until a set maximum amount of money is used up. (Some old policies have unlimited benefits, but in more recent years insurance companies have stopped selling the unlimited benefits kind.) With the traditional LTC insurance, what happens if you don’t need care? Do you get your money back? No, the insurance company keeps your money, and you’re out of luck. (Except in very rare and unique policies.)
- Hybrid long-term care insurance. This is a life insurance policy that has a special rider to allow you to tap into the money prior to death in order to pay for care. If you don’t end up needing long-term care, then the money goes to your family or beneficiaries just like life insurance would. Most people who buy LTC insurance these days are getting the hybrid type.
There are very few companies still selling traditional policies, and most people prefer the hybrid policies anyway, so there isn’t nearly as much risk as there used to be for the consumer. After some bumpy times, it appears as though the industry has figured out a better way to stay in business and provide a service to clients.
Should I Buy LTC Insurance?
Yes, it is a great idea for most people. If you can qualify medically, and if you can afford it, it is certainly something we urge you to strongly consider. As you age or as you begin to develop more health issues, the policies get more expensive. At some point, you may not be able to get a policy at all.
It is generally a good idea to consider buying LTC insurance in your 50’s or 60’s. It’s not necessarily too late if you’re in your 70’s, but it really depends on your health.
One great thing about LTC insurance is that it provides resources to pay for care at home. Care at home is very limited under Medicaid benefits, and yet the majority of people we speak to have strong preferences about staying at home as long as possible. You can get care at home under VA benefits, but sometimes the VA benefits are not enough to pay for all the care that is needed. A good LTC insurance policy will let you get plenty of care to stay at home as long as possible while you continue to age.
If you don’t qualify for LTC insurance, then you may want to pursue legal options such as a Nest Egg Trust to protect your assets and help you more easily qualify for future benefits that will help pay for care.
If you do qualify for LTC insurance, you may still want to consider a Nest Egg Trust as additional protections.
How Do I Check Into LTC Insurance?
If you are interested in checking into LTC insurance, you should chat with your financial advisor who can explain the various policies available. They can tell you some general options and estimated prices based on your situation.
To get more specific pricing and see if you qualify, you will need to go through underwriting. This involves a medical check up (such as taking blood samples, blood pressure, etc.) and also giving the insurance company permission to get copies of your medical history. Once the insurance company has this information, then they can give you a more specific price quote and options, which you can discuss with your financial advisor.
One last thing… WE DO NOT sell insurance. We are a law firm. However, we are familiar with a lot of advisors and can often recommend someone if you don’t have an advisor you’re already working with. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200.