Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance

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    What

    • Long-term care typically covers services that go further than standard medical and nursing care. Patients with chronic illnesses or debilitating disabilities require long-term care that extends beyond hospitalization. Most standard and Medicare insurance programs don't pay for long-term care services. Long-term care insurance can provide options to patients looking into entering a nursing home. Many long-term care policies allow in-home help with daily activities, such as bathing, meal preparation and cleaning. They often cover assisted living services and daycare as well as nursing home expenses.

    When

    • Buy a long-term care policy before you become disabled and need the coverage. Middle age is the best time to begin shopping for long-term care insurance to avoid excessive premiums. In addition, many long-term care policies have pre-existing conditions and strict age and wellness requirements.

    How Much

    • Consider all the options when searching for the best long-term care policy. Weigh the costs of the coverage against your income. The purpose of long-term care coverage is to protect assets, relieve family members of the burden of caring for you and to retain control over how you spend your waning years. According to AARP, a leading senior consumer advocacy organization, a typical long-term care policy for healthy adults in their early 60s runs between $2,000 and $3,000 a year. Premiums often are adjusted for inflation and can be increased. Consider your future income when making a commitment to purchase a policy. If the cost of the insurance will lower your current standard of living, long-term care insurance may not be the best alternative.

    Considerations

    • Look for a policy that provides the kind of care you know you will want when you become dependent. If you are comfortable with living in a nursing home, find a policy that limits coverage. Get a wider range of benefits if you have family members that can provide care or you know that your primary objective is to stay in your home when you become ill or disabled. Save money on premiums by choosing a longer waiting period before benefits kick in. Spend more for a policy that will continue to pay benefits if you can no longer pay the premiums.

    Where

    • Go to the Insurance Information Institute for a list of long-term care providers in your area. Utilize the service of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for assistance in deciding whether long-term care is appropriate for you. This organization also can help you decipher a policy that you are considering. Find a local SHIP advisor at the Medicare website.

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