Long-term care remains a costly concern

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Even after Federal Health Care Reform was enacted last year, individual long-term care insurance remains an important way for most Americans to help protect themselves financially against potentially costly long-term care expenses.

If you have not purchased long-term care insurance you may want to think about buying it sooner rather than later, even if you are in retirement or near it. Some insurance companies offer good health discounts and many will underwrite the insurance, with good health translating into the best premium rates.

Some conditions that become more prevalent with age, such as heart disease, can cost more in premiums or even disqualify you from buying individual long-term care insurance. While you may be perfectly healthy as you age, waiting for tomorrow to deal with potential costs may be risky.

And if you don’t think you’ll need long-term care, the Department of Labor’s National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information may point you in a different direction. According to its website, at least 70 percentage of Americans age 65 or older will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives.

Once you understand the need, work with an insurance professional to learn the various aspects of coverage and determine which policy helps meet your needs. Long-term care insurance provides coverage for certain care expenses typically when you can’t perform at least two activities of daily living without help, such as bathing or eating. Compare the requirements of policies that interest you.

Also look for the types of care covered. Many will cover nursing home care, but find out if your policy covers the costs of other choices, such as assisted living facilities, adult day care and home care.

If you compare policies that pay a daily benefit, make sure the benefit is sufficient to meet the costs in your area. Some areas, including those surrounding major U.S. cities, may have more expensive long-term care than in less populated areas. Also work with your insurance professional to learn the optimum coverage period. Many policies pay benefits only for a predetermined time.

Jeff S. Waters is a financial adviser at Waters Wealth Strategies.  He can be reached at (205) 358-7126 or by email at jswaters@waterswealthstrategies.com