Long-term care insurance, also known as senior care insurance, can be costly. Unfortunately, it’s also very necessary for those who need daily care. People are living longer, but not always healthier, lives. This causes premiums to rise and policyholders to suffer the consequences.
There are ways to keep plans more affordable, but they still may not be the best option for everyone. Alternatively, seniors can opt for other ways to afford long-term care. Life insurance policies or Medicaid may assist those who can’t afford the long-term care insurance cost.
WHAT IS LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE?
Long-term care insurance covers a variety of services that seniors need on an ongoing basis. For most seniors, this means the cost of caregiving, either in their home or an assisted living facility.
Most long-term insurance plans reimburse their policyholders a pre-set amount for specific services. For example, a long-term insurance policy may cover up to $300 per month for a private nursing home room. Or, it may cover $50 per day for a home health aide.
Most long-term insurance policies have optional add-ons for those with significant care needs. However, added benefits can affect long-term care insurance rates significantly. Some life insurance policies are now offering a long-term care rider to alleviate some of the cost of long term care insurance.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
About 70% of adults turning 65 believe that they’ll need long-term care. Most of them are likely correct. Disabilities affect 8% of those between 40 to 50 and 69% of those 90 or older.
The cost of long-term care can be astounding for seniors. For about $20 an hour, on average, they can have a health aid provide services in their home. The yearly cost of a nursing home averages almost $90,000 per year.
It goes without saying, then, that an insurance policy may significantly cut the costs of these necessary expenses. About 8 million Americans have a long-term care insurance policy to offset the costs that Medicare won’t pay.
For seniors who want a sense of independence, long-term care can provide that also. Most seniors don’t want to rely on their children or other family members for financial support. A long-term care insurance policy can give them some financial freedom and control over their care.
Seniors who live alone are more likely to need long-term care from a home health aide. Unfortunately, Medicare only provides coverage for short-term needs.
Long-term care insurance can reimburse seniors for some of the expenses they incur daily from caregiving. These seniors may need help eating, bathing, dressing, or even using the bathroom.
People who expect to live in an assisted care facility or nursing home can also benefit from this insurance. Seniors who have long-term care insurance can relieve their family members from some of the financial burdens for their care. And, an insurance policy gives them the choice of where, and how, their caregivers perform their services.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS?
The cost of long-term care insurance is one of the biggest reasons those approaching retirement ages elect not to have coverage. For some, the hefty premiums may not be affordable enough to outweigh the cost for services. Instead, some seniors elect to use other types of financing to afford long-term care.
Some policyholders have even seen drastic hikes in premiums, like a sudden doubling of what they once paid. That’s scary for anyone to face, especially seniors with limited incomes. Much of the increases come from the desire of insurance companies to gain more profits, rather than the cost of services.
Long-term care insurance isn’t for everyone. For many, it’s simply not an affordable option, and they’d rather invest their money in other solutions. Others have a solid family support system or would rather live with family instead of nursing home, if necessary.
Seniors with specific health conditions may not even qualify for coverage. Pre-existing conditions that may not qualify an individual include, but are not limited to:
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure
- Memory loss
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Sickle-cell anemia
COST OF INSURANCE PLANS FOR LONG TERM CARE
How much does long-term care insurance cost? It varies with several factors, including:
- Where you live
- Current health conditions and past health history
- Family health history
- Your age
- If you’re applying for single or joint coverage with a spouse
- The term for which you’ll need care
When determining “How much is long-term care insurance going to cost me?”, it’s important to consider your options. When you receive quotes from insurance companies, consider them carefully. Will it benefit you more to pay the premiums every month or invest that money for future needs?
The long-term insurance care cost for a policyholder can change each year drastically. By law, insurance companies can ask for annual approval for rate increases. Sometimes, the rates can skyrocket up to 40% more than you paid the previous year.
KEEPING PLANS AFFORDABLE
Just as all insurance policies aren’t created equal, neither are long-term care insurance cost quotes. You may find that one company denies you when another quotes you an affordable rate.
Therefore, it is possible to find a long-term care insurance policy that meets your needs. There are also a few things you can do to reduce the long-term care insurance cost for yourself.
The younger you purchase a policy, the lower your long-term care insurance cost in many cases.
Coverage is usually the cheapest for people who purchase a policy in their 50s. The average yearly premium for a couple’s joint coverage around age 55 is $2,350. The closer you get to retirement ages, the higher premiums usually rise.
Of course, age isn’t the only factor. But, the older you get, the more insurance companies consider possible health conditions. The more health risks you have, the higher your premiums will be to cover the likelihood of necessary care.
DO YOUR RESEARCH AND POLICY-SHOP
Your search for the right long-term care policy shouldn’t end with your first quote. You should do as much, if not more, research as you would for a home mortgage.
This insurance will follow you around for a long time to come. It’s important to get a policy with affordable premiums and benefits that meet your needs.
Some insurance companies offer special discounts that you may qualify for. If you’re in good health at the time of your application and live a relatively active, healthy lifestyle, you may qualify. These discounts can save you hundreds per year.
Additionally, most policy premiums increase over time. Some companies increase premiums a small amount each year. Other companies increase significantly every few years. Know how much you can expect your policy to increase before accepting any terms.
UNDERSTAND THE FINE PRINT
The fine print of a policy is where it can get tricky. Often, this is the part that’s most overlooked when deciding on an insurance policy, yet it’s the most important. The terms of your insurance policy will detail things like:
- Exclusions for things you may do to harm yourself (like smoking or drinking alcohol)
- How long you must be in a nursing facility before your insurance coverage kicks in
- Requirements for filing a claim
- Conditions and needed services that will cause your carrier to begin paying benefits
- Excluded conditions, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or even some cancer
Your policy may also have exclusions on the types of care you can receive or where you receive it. If you want to receive long-term care in your home, make sure you find a policy that allows home care. Some policies may only reimburse you for nursing care expenses.
ALTERNATIVES TO LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE
If you believe that the cost of long term care policy premiums is too much, you do have alternatives.
Some people elect for short-term care insurance. If you believe that you’ll only need care for a few months to a year, this insurance can be much more affordable. Additionally, you may qualify for benefits as soon as you accept your policy terms.
Medicare provides Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) to seniors. They help with long-term costs not covered by Medicare. You’ll have a high deductible before the plan starts paying. But, you’ll also have a savings account that you can use, if needed, before paying your deductible out-of-pocket.
Many experts believe that a life insurance policy with a long-term care rider is the way to go. These policies ensure that a policyholder still gets benefits, even if they don’t end up needing long-term care. Life insurance policy premiums are often much cheaper than long-term care insurance premiums.
Life insurance policies with a long-term care rider usually provide a monthly benefit for long-term care. The amount depends on the policy’s value. The higher the value, the higher the monthly benefit in most cases.
Long-term care insurance is beneficial for many seniors, but it often isn’t an affordable option. Fortunately, you do have alternative choices when it comes to protecting yourself as you age.
If you have or have considered a long-term care insurance policy, we would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!