Here are two eye-popping facts: Someone turning 65 will have a nearly 70% chance of needing long-term care in the future. And the annual cost of a private room in a nursing home (national median) is over $100,000 a year, according to the recent Genworth Cost of Care Survey. Yet only about 10% of Americans 65 and older have long-term care insurance.
If you’re 50-plus, should you consider buying a long-term care insurance policy, which can often cost between $2,000 and $5,000 a year?
Long-term care costs: the financial-planning topic people hate
Paying for long-term care is the “one financial planning topic most people would love to avoid,” says Savage, author of The Savage Truth on Money, on the podcast. But, she adds, “it pays to plan ahead.”
That’s for sure. Medicare pays very few long-term care costs and Medicaid coverage for long-term care is only available for people with minimal incomes and assets. So that means many of us will need to finance any long-term care expenses ourselves, either from savings or a long-term care insurance policy, or both.
“Whatever you have accumulated in savings could be gone in a blink of any eye if you don’t plan for long-term care,” says Phyllis Shelton, president of LTC Consultants in Nashville, on the podcast.
One reason many older adults don’t buy long-term care insurance is because they fear the cost of premiums could skyrocket, as has often been true in the past.
Hybrid long-term care insurance policies
That’s why some people are gravitating to so-called hybrid long-term care policies, which combine traditional coverage with life insurance coverage. With the hybrid combos, long-term care policy beneficiaries receive a death benefit.
If you’re considering buying a long-term care policy of any kind, the best time to do so is in your 50s or 60s. After that, there’s a decent chance you won’t be approved for one, especially if you have a “pre-existing condition.”
Even in your 50s or 60s, you could be denied. As I note on the podcast, I learned this personally while looking into buying a long-term care policy a few years back. At the time, I was told by a major insurer that because I had diabetes, that the company didn’t sell the coverage to people who’d had diabetes for 20 years or more.
Finding a policy
Krueger, creator and co-host of public television’s MoneyTrack, advises on the podcast: “All insurance companies are not created equal. Look at the strength of the company because the long-term care insurance contract is only as good as the strength of the company to make good on the claim.”
Savage also urges finding a good insurance agent who specializes in long-term care policies and can help you compare them.
Adds Krueger: “Get the most unbiased help you can, from a real expert.”