Long Term care insurance is a great way of preparing yourself for costly long term care down the road. This is something we don’t look forward to but having something there to help us financially when we need it most. Long...
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost of long-term care in America is between $32,000 and $56,000 per person, per year. Because Medicare is limited in what and how much it will cover, and for how long, many consumers are interested in other options to help cover the rising cost of long-term care. Whether you choose to purchase long-term care insurance or not, being prepared early on means you or your loved one won’t have to worry about how to pay the bills later when you need the most help.
Long-term care insurance will help pay for the costs of long-term care, whether you need assistance in your home, or in round-the-clock care in a facility. However, long-term care insurance has become increasingly more expensive over the last few years, and as a result may not be the best option for everyone. But with all insurance types, knowing if long-term care insurance is right for you means weighing the cost of coverage against the risk of being without. We’ve done our research and outlined everything you need to know about long-term care insurance to help you find the best insurance providers and make the right choice for you or your loved ones.
The great thing about long-term care insurance coverage is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Depending on the level of care required, you can select a policy that can be flexible to your needs and move with you as your required level of care changes. Whether you live at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home, long-term care insurance will help cover the cost of the care you receive.
In-Home Care: Not everyone needs 24-hour support or assistance, so long-term care insurance doesn’t just pay for services provided in care facilities, but also those received in the home. A few of the most common types of in-home care covered by long-term care insurance include:
Personal Care Services: For those requiring assistance with daily care tasks like getting dressed or bathing.
Homemaker Services: For those requiring assistance with daily or weekly household chores, like grocery shopping, cleaning, meal preparation, etc…
Professional Services: For those requiring medical assistance from a Nurse, Home Health Aide, or Therapist.
Assisted Living: If you are still able to live relatively independent, but need to have access to 24/7 assistance or medical care, an assisted living facility may be a good option for you. In addition to the services mentioned above, assisted living coverage also includes things like meals, recreational activities and transportation, and access to community facilities on the premises. Adult Day Care is also covered in this section.
Nursing Home: For those who are unable to live independently and require around the clock care or need assistance for most, if not all daily living tasks, a nursing home will be able to provide the care needed. Of all the care services provided, a nursing home is the most expensive as the residents require the most amount of care from professionally trained medical personnel. Like with Assisted Living facilities, nursing homes are also well equipped to care for those with special needs. For example, a resident with Alzheimer’s disease may need additional care and assessment to prevent incidents of wandering.
The amount of coverage (%) for each level of care (In-Home, Assisted Living, or Nursing Home) depends on the policy you select. The most comprehensive policies will provide 100% coverage. However, the option for partial coverage (50%, 75%, etc…), is also available, and will help keep your monthly premiums low. Keep in mind, the more coverage you get, the more expensive you’re monthly premiums will be.
Coverage Amounts for Different Levels of Care
Additional riders, which increase the amount or type of coverage provided, are also available from almost all long-term care insurance providers. This is a good way to customize your policy to your specific needs. Some of the most common examples include:
Inflation Riders: If you purchase a long-term care insurance policy, definitely consider purchasing an inflation rider as well. With an inflation rider, your daily maximum benefits and your lifetime maximum benefits will increase a fixed percentage every year for a specific number of years. Most long-term care insurance providers offer this as an additional rider.
Increased Benefits: Add this rider to increase the daily maximum benefits or the lifetime benefit limit on your existing policy.
Spouse Survivorship: When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse on the policy will no longer have to pay their long-term care insurance monthly premiums, but will still receive coverage.
Shared Care: Allows you and your spouse to pool your long-term care insurance benefits rather than requiring each person to have their own policy.
Return of Premium: Upon the death of the policyholder, a portion (and in some cases, all) of the total amount of premiums paid for the policy will be returned to the designated beneficiary. These types of policies typically can increase rates by around 50%.
And more… Depending on the long-term care insurance provider you choose, additional riders may be available.
Common Additional Riders
As with many other types of insurance, long-term care insurance policies have benefit limits, which will cap the amount of money the insurance provider will pay out toward covered services. In the case of long-term care insurance, there is either daily or monthly benefit limit, as well as a maximum benefit period to consider, which you will select at the time of enrollment.
Daily or monthly benefits, also known as Facility Benefits, are the maximum amount of benefits paid out per day or month. Daily benefits typically range from $50 to $500 a day, while monthly benefits start at $1,500 and can go upwards of $10,000 a month. If your daily or monthly long-term care costs exceed the daily limit, you’ll be responsible for paying the balance out of pocket.
Don’t forget to consider the amount of coverage provided by your policy when crunching numbers! If, for instance, your daily cost of long-term care is $100, and you selected 80% coverage with a $100 daily limit, then you’ll receive $80 in benefits from your insurance provider, and be responsible for the remaining $20 out-of-pocket.
Maximum benefit periods are measured in years, which means that you are entitled to benefits for the number of years selected. If long-term care is required beyond the number of years selected, your insurance policy is basically useless and any expenses are your sole responsibility to pay. Benefit periods typically range from 2-10 years. However, there are a few companies, like Mutual of Omaha, that offer a maximum benefit amount, not period.
Additionally, a few companies have a policy benefit limit, or the maximum amount of money the insurance provider will pay out for the life of the policy. This is most common for policies with lifetime coverage. If this is yet another benefit limit on top of the daily or monthly amount and the maximum benefit period, we suggest shopping around to see what your other options are.
Last, long-term care insurance policies don’t have deductibles, however they do have a waiting period, which is called the elimination period. This means that once you begin long-term care, you’ll need to wait a certain amount of time before your benefits will begin to pay for your care. During this time, you will be responsible for paying the full cost of long-term care services. Again, this is something you’ll select at the time of enrollment, and most companies have a large range of time to choose from (30 days to 1 year). The longer you’re elimination period, the lower your monthly premiums will be.
When choosing a long-term care insurance policy, consider the company’s customer service record. Insurance companies should make it easy for you to manage your policy and payments, and have representatives available to assist with any questions or needs that may arise.
Should you choose to purchase long-term care insurance, most insurance providers give you 30 days from the time of enrollment to change your mind. This is called the policy review period. This gives the consumer plenty of time to carefully examine their policy and determine if it’s right for them.
When it comes to submitting claims, some companies now offer an online customer portal for submitting claims, but it is much more uncommon than with other types of insurance companies. The primary form of communication and claim submission for most of our Top 10 long-term care insurance providers is by phone and mail, and some still accept claims by fax, but this is less common.
If at any time you’d like to cancel your policy, you will need to contact your insurance provider and may be required to fill out and submit forms. However, if you choose to cancel, be prepared to forfeit any premiums you’ve already paid and know that you will lose all benefit coverage.
Selecting a financially stable insurance provider is extremely important. When you purchase long-term care insurance, you are essentially paying upfront for coverage benefits later down the road. One of the worst things that could possibly happen would be to select a company to work with and make numerous premiums payments, only to find out later that the insurance provider went out of business because they were unable to cover the cost of all the benefits they owed. Not only would you loose the money you paid toward coverage, but also the coverage you were expecting.
To determine a company’s financial strength, look at credit ratings from A.M. Best, Moody’s, or Standard & Poors (S&P). These companies are respected credit rating agencies, which compile data on insurance providers finances, including their profits, payouts, financial reserves, and current ability to meet any outstanding obligations to policyholders, to determine the company’s current and expected future financial stability.
However, understanding the actual ratings can be challenging. Scoring methods differ from agency to agency, and they aren’t always obvious. For example, don’t just assume that an A+ is the best possible score, instead AAA or an A++ are the highest scores available. It’s never a bad idea to take a look at the complete scoring breakdown for each company, but to make things easier, we suggest looking for companies with scores starting with an “A”. Like with school grades, this means the company is highly rated.
Long-term care insurance premiums are not just based on the policy that is selected, but also on the policyholder. As we discussed in earlier sections, the coverage, coverage amounts, benefit limits and elimination periods will all impact your premiums. The more coverage you select, the more you’ll pay in premiums. Additionally, your insurance premiums are determined by your age, gender, current health, medical history, and other factors as well.
In most cases, your long-term care premiums are not a fixed amount, and will increase over time. It’s been reported recently that long-term care insurance premiums have risen between 30% and 50% over the past several years. This is due to the rising costs associated to long-term care in general, and knowing whether or not long-term care insurance is worth it or not has become a common question for many consumers. Again, it all comes down to weighing the cost of coverage against the risk of going without. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, or other degenerative diseases or conditions, it may make more sense for you to invest in long-term care insurance. On the other hand, if you have a strong family or friend network who will be able to take care of you when you’re unable to care for yourself, then maybe long-term care insurance isn’t as important. At the end of the day, no one knows what the future holds, so take the time to consider your options before making a decision.
Many long-term care insurance providers also offer discounts. If you include a partner or loved one in your plan, there’s usually a sizable discount on the premiums for the additional person that can reach upwards of 40%. Even if your spouse is not included, a discount may also be available, but it will be less than if both spouses are insured. If you have a proven record of good health, many companies will offer a discount on premiums since you’re likely to be a low-risk customer.
There are so many long-term care insurance options to choose from that reading reviews from consumers who have experience with these companies can be a fantastic way to help you make a decision. Here are some things to look for when browsing reviews.
Other Reviews: Mutual of Omaha • New York Life Long Term Care Insurance • MassMutual Long Term Care Insurance • John Hancock Long Term Care Insurance • Northwestern Mutual Long Term Care Insurance • State Farm Long Term Care Insurance • Genworth Long Term Care Insurance • TransAmerica Long Term Care Insurance • MedAmerica Long Term Care Insurance • Continental Long Term Care Insurance • LifeSecure Long Term Care