Group Health Insurance
Health care reform
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
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Long Term Care Insurance
Medicare related coverage
08-27-2010 by Colleen King
Some people think they have to have a long term care insurance (LTCi) policy that covers everything for many years. Often people want to look at a ‘lifetime’ benefit, maximum daily or monthly benefit amounts, and a few other things to minimize their out of pocket expenses when care is needed. But then they get the quote and it’s astronomical, perpetuating the idea that LTCi is too expensive.
But do you need all that coverage? You need to know that LTCi, like health insurance, is not intended to pay 100% of the cost. It’s intended to cover a majority of the expenses though. Here are a few tips around the pieces of a long term care policy to consider to make it more affordable:
Benefit Period–people frequently want lifetime benefits but the reality is once someone is receiving custodial, nursing home or assisted living care, the average length of time care is needed is about 2 1/2 years. We’re not talking about something simple you need help for a few weeks then you’re fine. We’re talking generally older people closer to the end of life. And now, some carriers don’t even offer a lifetime period. I usually start with clients by looking at a 3 year benefit period. If they can afford it and they want it, we may go to a 4 or 5 year period, or cut it back to 2 years. Remember, Medicare will pay for a limited amount of skilled nursing care only. And who knows, that may change at some point the way things are going.
Elimination Period–Some people also refer to this as a ‘time deductible.’ This is the period of time that you actually need care before your policy kicks in. My starting point is 90 days. The reason is that if you need skilled care, Medicare or your private insurance will cover usually about 100 days. If you need home custodial care, it’s possible to add an inexpensive rider that will give a zero day elimination period for home care. Depending on your finances, you might want to stretch out the elimination period to 180 days.
Inflation protection riders–You most likely will want this in some form. The inflation protection piece makes your daily benefit amount increase a certain percent on the anniversary date of the policy each year. Ideally, especially if you are younger, you should really consider a compound interest rider. This is usually less expensive than starting with a significantly higher daily benefit amount. If you are a bit older, you might be able to get away with a simple interest inflation protection rider, because in that scenario starting with a higher daily amount and simple interest could be less expensive than a comparable policy with compound interest.
Different insurance companies offer different combinations in elimination periods, different riders, benefit periods, all sorts of things. So if the first quote you get sounds ridiculous, ask questions, either of the agent you are working with or ask another for information. Because the government isn’t going to take care of this, and you probably don’t want to saddle your kids with your care.