Finding the Best Long-Term Care Insurance

Seventy percent of all Americans aged 65 and older will likely need some form of long-term care (LTC), according to a study in the journal Inquiry. That includes nursing home care as well as assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs): toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, transferring out of bed and incontinence care.

Though the Obama administration has pledged to keep working on a public option for long-term care, it has not offered any concrete solutions, making it much more likely citizens will have to turn to the open market as they look for coverage.

What will Medicare cover? Medicare only covers LTC for short periods of time, such as rehabilitation after an injury or illness. It does not cover assistance with ADLs that many older adults need to maintain their independence. Medicaid will cover nursing home care only if your income is below a certain level and after you’ve depleted almost all your savings.

What does Insurance covers under nursing home care? When LTC insurance was first introduced in the 1980s, it was meant to cover only nursing home care. Not anymore. Today most policies are joint policies, meaning they cover both in-home assistance and nursing home care. “You can think of it this way: Long-term care insurance might keep me out of a nursing home

Long-term care insurance premiums and benefits vary widely. If you are interested in this type of insurance, be sure to investigate at least three or four providers to find the combination of cost and benefits that best suits your needs.

Planning for difficult times, an American Association of Retired Persons publication, lists seven questions to ask about long-term care insurance policies before you put your money down: (1) Does the policy cover care in any licensed care facility? (2) What are the policy’s time or dollar limits? (3) How does the policy exclude coverage for “preexisting conditions?” (4) Does the policy provide coverage for Alzheimer’s disease or other psychiatric conditions? (5) Is the policy renewable? (6) What is the annual premium for the policy? (7) Is the insurance company from which you are considering buying the policy, financially secure? Look at the reports from the various rating services such as Standard and Poor’s or Duff and Phelps.

If you need help using the bathroom, bathing or changing soiled undergarments (incontinence does happen), would you want your children doing that or would you prefer the help of a skilled medical professional? LTC insurance covers in-home assistance from licensed home health agencies.