Long term care – What is it? Who needs it? Should you have it?

by Miriam Bridgeman

Long term care is a range of support and services affecting your personal care needs. When you can’t do activities of daily living that includes bathing, dressing, toileting, incontinence care, transferring from a bed or chair, eating or you have severe cognitive impairment that requires substantial care then you need long-term care. Many of these things we can take for granted, but as we age, or health becomes a challenge, it becomes more challenging to do these seemingly simple tasks. Long term care insurance is one way to help cover some of the costs that you would have to pay out of pocket for or have a family member assist you in your day to day routine.   

Medicare doesn’t cover long term care – the fact is it only covers a short term stay in a nursing facility but under strict guidelines that you are in a hospital for 3-days and then transfer directly to a facility because you are unable to return home but have expectations to return home and live independently.  It is important to get insurance while you are young and healthy as you must qualify in good health to get coverage. Many people say that it is an expensive insurance, but if you think about the costs associated with long term care, the insurance can be a bargain. Personal care with a home health aide can cost upwards of $22/hour, assisted living costs start at $3,500/month, and skilled care can be double assisted living costs. Paying for long term care insurance in advance of needing care instead of expending your life’s savings for care can be a huge value.

There are various levels of care, and they are adjusted as care needs change. Personal care can be given at home or in a facility which includes some basic daily needs. The next level is assisted living and then finally, skilled nursing care. The only covered services via Health and Human Services through Medicaid is skilled nursing care. You may have reduced quality of life if you don’t need that high level of care but don’t have insurance or assets to pay for the first steps of needing basic assistance.

Long term care insurance is a big part of your financial well being offering you peace of mind to know that if the unexpected happens, you won’t need to depend on your family or go through all of your assets to get the care you need. Once you reach the age of 65, you have a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care during your lifetime. (Medicare and You, 2015) The unexpected need for care can arise at any age.  Over 50% of people on a claim are between the ages of 40-64. (Unum Ins Co)

If you are a business owner depending on how your business is structured, you can get a tax deduction based on your age and other factors when you buy long term care insurance through your business. This offering can be extended to your employees at no cost to you and can be part of your health insurance benefit package. They too can qualify for a tax deduction on their individual taxes. If you have a health savings account (HAS) premiums can be paid pre-tax.

Traditional long-term care insurance is still available but new products have given rise to alternative ways to protect assets, provide care and offer a different option versus a use it or lose it benefit. Hybrid whole life insurance policies have a rider add on that will allow you to pull forward the death benefit to use towards long term care while still leaving some death benefit coverage. There are one-time lump sum policies that allow you to carve out a piece of your savings and secure it for long term care needs instead of having a monthly payment moving into retirement years. If it turns out, you don’t need long-term care in each of these scenarios at some point your family will get the benefit of the insurance upon your death. Protecting yourself and your loved ones, taking the burden off your family to care for you is one of the best gifts you can give to you and them.

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