Seventy percent of people age 65 today will need long-term care at some point in their life.
The odds of at least one spouse needing care jumps to over ninety percent. Planning for the likelihood of needing long-term care should be an important consideration for most retirees.
The default plan, when you haven’t planned, is that you will pay out of pocket until your assets have been depleted to the point that you qualify for Medicaid. In other words, you’ve become impoverished enough to quality for a social welfare program.
For people who don’t have heirs, don’t have a spouse, and don’t mind receiving care in a nursing home, this may be a fine plan. For most people, however, other concerns make paying out of pocket an undesirable way to provide for their care.
If you pay out-of-pocket, you’re essentially self-insuring. You’re betting that the risk and cost of long-term care are something you’re willing and able to bear, and if they aren’t that you’re comfortable receiving care in a nursing home. For those who have heirs, a spouse, or who want to stay in their homes, long-term care insurance is the simplest solution for addressing this need.
People typically purchase long-term care insurance for two reasons.
Most people want to control the mode of care they receive. In other words, it’s generally desirable to receive care in-home, surrounded by your loved-ones, and in a familiar setting. This allows for a better quality of life than you might otherwise expect in a nursing home. Long-term care insurance allows you to receive care at home, in an assisted living facility, or in nursing home, as your needs demand.
The second reason people purchase long-term care insurance is to protect their assets for use by a spouse, or to be passed to their heirs. How will your spouse maintain their standard of living after you’ve passed, if you’ve spent all of your assets on your care?
Many people wrongly think that Medicare pays for long-term care insurance, but it does not. Medicaid is the program that would pay for care.
In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must first spend down your assets to the point that you (and likely, your spouse) are considered impoverished. When applying, you’ll need to show proof that you haven’t given any money away in the last five years, and if you have, it could affect your eligibility. In fact, you will be required to show five years’ worth of monthly statements for every account you’ve held during that period.
A long-term care policy allows you to have a solution on the shelf for when you need it, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing that, not only will you be taken care of in the manner you desire, but your care won’t be a burden on family, and your assets can be protected.
It’s best to apply for a long-term care policy in your late fifties or early sixties, when you are likely to still be healthy enough to qualify. Premiums may seem high to many, but when you consider the likelihood of needing care, and the fact that care can cost upward of $100,000 per year, the relative cost of the policies make sense.
As you get older the risk to you and your family shift from the risks associated with premature death, to the risks associated with failing health. Once your working years have passed, the economic risk of your death often becomes minimal. In consideration of that, redirecting premium dollars away from life insurance and toward long-term care insurance might make sense.
Long-term care insurance may not be appropriate for everyone, but too many are too quick to dismiss it before they’ve done their due diligence. You owe it to yourself, and your family, to explore your options and make an informed decision about how you wish to receive care in the future.
Stephen Kyne, CFP® is a Partner at Sterling Manor Financial in Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck. Securities offered through Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Sterling Manor Financial, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor or Cadaret Grant & Co., Inc. Sterling Manor Financial and Cadaret, Grant are separate entities.