What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care (LTC) is the health industry name for care and related expenses associated with an extended illness or injury, including rehabilitation and maintenance of a person who is disabled and cannot care for himself and who is expected to need care for an extended period of time. Advances in medical technology have made it possible to recover from many medical conditions that previously resulted in death; however, the patient may still experience a lengthy period of disability and the resulting necessary care related to chronic conditions.
Because this is a relatively new phenomenon, our traditional sources of financial help for these expenses do not address periods of custodial long-term care. Ninety-five percent of long-term care in the United States is custodial in nature. Private health insurance and disability income coverage do not reimburse these costs, nor does traditional government program assistance such as Medicare. Both private and public programs were established to help fund short-term medical expenses, and a gap currently exists in most people's financial planning.
What is Long-Term Care Insurance?
Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance that individuals can buy to help them finance any potential future long-term care needs they may have. Sometimes employers offer employees long-term care insurance coverage as an employee benefit as well. Depending on the policy purchased, LTC Insurance could help a person pay for extended care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or it could also help pay for the cost of extended home-based care.
LTC insurance policies are designed to fill the gap that has been created between current available resources and the considerable cost of long-term care. LTC coverage offers asset and income protection when the need for LTC becomes necessary. Premiums for LTC insurance policies are based on your age at enrollment: the younger one's age at the time of application, the lower one's premiums will be throughout the life of the policy.
How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?
Long-term care insurance is much less costly than paying for long-term care needs out-of-pocket.
Primary factors that are considered in the cost of a policy include:
Age at policy issue: Age is locked in when the policy is issued. The younger one's age, the less expensive the policy.
Plan design: The greater level of coverage and the richer the plan design, the higher the cost. The guaranteed-purchase option allows the policyholder to purchase more daily benefit amounts at specified future dates, usually annually. Inflation-specific riders increase the daily benefit each year for an extra premium. Most insurers increase the daily benefit by five percent each year, and the policyholder chooses to use the simple or compound method for the benefit increase.
Health: Discounts of as much as 20% can be offered to those in excellent health. Those with many health problems may pay an extra premium. LTC insurance is medically underwritten, and coverage can be declined.
Lifestyle: Smokers and those whose weight is not within the norm of insurance company standards will pay more for coverage.
Marital/Couple status: Couples applying at the same time may be offered significant discounts.
Group Sponsorship: Members of an employer- or association-sponsored plan may qualify for special discounts on the premium.
Elimination and Benefit Periods: The number of days one must self-insure before the LTC insurance pays for LTC assistance is termed an "elimination period". The premium decreases in price the longer one waits for the assistance to begin. Also, some policies have "benefit periods", or the length of time the benefits will be paid if LTC assistance is required. LTC insurance policies can pay as long as a lifetime, while others cover assistance for 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 6 years.
Insurance Company: Premium pricing can be different at different insurance companies due to actuaries interpreting the information differently. Also, after the policy issue, rates can increase by class, not by individual policy. Therefore, it is important to work with insurance companies who have a track record of fair and responsible behavior toward their policyholders in order to guard against unexpected future rate increases.
Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?
Purchasing LTC insurance is a decision with financial consequences, whether or not it is purchased. If you choose not to purchase LTC insurance and require LTC in the future, your personal savings may be used to finance such care. However, if you purchase LTC insurance, monthly payments will be made in order to prevent spending personal savings for LTC.
Several reasons for purchasing LTC insurance exist, including the following primary reasons:
Control and Access to Quality
Comprehensive LTC insurance helps ensure that options will exist after a disability occurs; you will choose where an how to receive care rather than being restricted to low-cost or affordable options. Owning LTC insurance allows you to choose your type of care, as well as who delivers the care, instead of the government choosing for you.
LTC insurance can provide options to remain in one's home instead of obtaining care in a nursing home or similar setting. Receiving care at one's home will not force the disabled person's children to become caregivers out of necessity. Instead, children can play whatever role they wish and parents will not feel guilty about interrupting their children's lives.
LTC insurance can save money and ensure that personal savings and other assets will be used for the purpose originally intended rather than paying for long-term care health expenses. LTC insurance provides peace of mind; it provides financial security during a stressful time, and is not subject to the woes of the stock market. The financial freedom and security LTC insurance provides is one of the primary reasons people purchase this type of insurance.
LTC insurance premiums can be tax-deductible. The deduction is more likely to be realized by a business owner than an individual, but there are some guidelines for LTC insurance deductions based on age if an individual itemizes medical expenses. Consult an accountant for more specific information.
When choosing a LTC insurance policy, several factors should be considered, including:
When judging insurance companies, financial strength should be considered by examining the company's financial ratings and asset size. Also consider the company's years in business and whether or not the company has a history and commitment to long-term care insurance. Only financially solid companies with excellent reputations for client service and significant assets to pay benefits in the future should be considered when choosing between companies.
Amount of Coverage
LTC insurance policies can cover all or part of the daily rate of long-term care assistance. The average daily rate charged for such assistance should be used when considering the amount of coverage to purchase; for example, coverage should start around the national average, and then be adjusted for regional costs.
Types of Policies
Three distinct models of LTC insurance exist - the reimbursement model, the indemnity model, and the disability model - and each type should be discussed with an insurance advisor. Additionally, tax-qualified and non-tax qualified LTC insurance policies exist. Eighty-five percent of policies sold are tax-qualified, which means that certain standards prescribed by federal law are met and the premiums are partially or fully tax deductible. Access to benefits in both types are very similar; however, important differences include flexibility factors, available discounts for alternative plan of care arrangements, premium provision waivers, access to privately-hired aides under Home Health Care benefits, and Care Coordination benefits.
A variety of choices are available for the purchase of LTC insurance.
Policyholders can choose:
Policy Types include:
- Daily Benefit Amount (From $50 to $450)
- Benefit Period (From 2 years to 10 years)
- Elimination Period (waiting period before benefits begin)
Combination policies include:
- Reimbursement of Actual Expenses up to the benefit amount
- Indemnity (Policyholder receives the entire daily benefit, even if only a portion is spent on LTC assistance)
- Disability or Cash Benefit (daily, weekly, or monthly benefits are paid, regardless of the expenses incurred)
- Life and LTC combined into one policy (individual market only)
- Annuity and LTC (individual market only)
- Disability and LTC (group market only)
Assistance coverage options:
- Inflation protection (simple, compound or CPI methods)
- Return of premium, less claims paid
- Nursing home
- Assisted Living Facilities (ALF's)
- Adult Congregate Living Facilities (ACLF)
- Home Health Care (HHC)
- Adult Day Care
- Hospice facility
- Payroll deduction on group policies
- Limited payments for a specified period of time (For example, the policy is fully paid after ten years of payments.)