Mukilteo Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Beth Bond 

Long-term care insurance; Do you need it? Can you get it?

 

October 16, 2019

Long-term care insurance is increasingly difficult to get – and afford. But it may mean the difference between affordable medical treatment and financial disaster if a catastrophic health event occurs.

Long-term care insurance. What is it really? Do I need it? Can I still get it?

It is a fact of modern times that we need insurance to protect our home, car and possessions from fire, flood and theft. We keep paying the premiums in the hope we won't need to call and collect on these policies.

All through the working years most companies provided options for medical and life insurance. And, when there was a change in our life, like marriage or birth of a child, more coverage was added. Keeping up on these premiums through the years meant a certain peace of mind for families.

But in the trials and tribulations of a long life, those premium payments have risen with the cost-of-living standards. It was often a struggle to continue, but the thought of the money accumulated meant, don't ever stop paying.

Now, life insurance is a necessary luxury. We are all going to die sometime.

Long-term care insurance was developed in the hope that funds would be available when faced with a disability or need for in-home care. What a great idea! Karen Herzog of Ocala, Florida, bought her policy in 1973 with her only daughter in mind, and alleviating any financial burden for her. "This was supposed to be my parachute." But now, facing much higher premiums, she may have to drop that policy.

Years ago we thought Social Security and Medicare would step in when needed. Many factors have played a role in making this unrealistic. Our advancements in medical science and knowledge of the benefits of nutrition have enabled populations to live longer lives.

That in itself brings another set of problems. The cost of medications is escalating, and living expenses are, in turn, also rising. Concern over whether the savings (& IRA'S) will be adequate for a comfortable retirement is scary indeed. And what if an accident or disease strikes?

Since 2000, the number of insurance companies offering long-term policies has declined so much that there are now fewer than a dozen still in business. Each state has different regulators to monitor rate increases and limits of care.

Some state policies will restrict number of days in a hospital or hours of at-home care per week, even specifying the range of personal care. The best policies have an inflation factor that is reviewable annually and matches cost-of living expenses.

As with any contract, be sure to read the fine print. For those who bought a policy when they were in good health at age 55 or 60, the cost of premiums may still be affordable.

But when the cost becomes a hardship, call in the experts to review the policy. Some companies are more flexible than others and will show you how to revise policy conditions, like number of days of care, or assisted living at-home.

Don't give up on the policy, Ms. Herzog; it was a costly investment that should be re-evaluated by you and the insurance agents working together.

 

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