The ideal time to plan for long-term care is in your 40s to mid-50s. As you get older, by comparison, visits to the doctor’s office may result in new diagnoses and prescriptions that can either cause you to pay more long-term care insurance or make you completely uninsurable.
The goal is to buy long-term care insurance before you develop a preexisting medical condition. Then the policy will help cover the cost of long-term care should you develop that condition later.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Long-Term Insurance
- Long-Term Care is different from traditional medical care
Someone with a prolonged physical illness, a disability, or a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease often needs long-term care. Long-term care services may include help with daily activities, home health care, respite care, hospice care, adult day care, care in a nursing home or care in an assisted living facility.
- Consider if you’ll need long-term care
Whether you should buy a long-term care insurance policy will depend on your age, health status overall retirement goals, income, and assets. If you have a large amount of assets, but do not want to use them to pay for long-term care, you may want to buy a long-term care insurance policy. Many people buy a policy because they want to stay independent of government aid or the help of family. They don’t want to burden anyone with having to care for them. However, you should not buy a policy if you can’t afford the premium or are not sure you can pay the premium or are not sure you can pay the premium for the rest of your life.
- Investigate the best option for you
It’s best to talk to a specialist in long-term care to determine what options fit your circumstances, plus talk to a financial planner about where long-term care insurance fits into your retirement plan. People pay for long-term care in a variety of ways. These usually include using personal resources and long-term care insurance, and Medicaid for those who qualify. Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance and health insurance you may have at work usually will not pay for long-term care.
- Calculate the cost of long-term care insurance
Long-term care insurance isn’t inexpensive. The cost depends on the amount and type of care you need and where you get it. Premiums vary but may also increase over, so if you purchase a policy now, expect to pay even more to renew it.
- Contact several companies and agents
Be sure to compare benefits, the types of facilities covered, limits on your coverage, what is not covered and the premium. Policies from different insurance companies often have the same coverage and benefits but may not cost the same. Be sure to ask companies about their rate increase history and whether they have increased rates on the long-term care insurance policies.
- Read the fine print
How long is the exclusion period before the policy begins paying benefits? What capacities must you lose? How many years of care are covered? While you should investigate these policies yourself, the situation is complex enough that you should consult an expert who doesn’t sell policies to help decide.
- Consider whether you’ll qualify
Long-term care can be challenging to qualify for. The insurance company has strict requirements for health and mental status most people have a hard time meeting in older age. In some cases, you may still qualify with a pre-existing health condition.
- Timing considerations
The best age to apply for long-term care insurance is when you’re in your 40s or 50s and still in great physical and mental health. While premiums will be lower if you buy your insurance earlier, you’ll also have to maintain your coverage longer to use it.
- Don’t keep your long-term care plans a secret
Make photocopies of your long-term care plans and give them to someone who is going to be responsible. You may also need someone to advocate for you when it comes time to use the policy or file a claim so authorize someone to speak to the company on your behalf in advance.
- Review your contract carefully
When you purchase long-term care insurance, your company should send you a policy. You should read the policy and make certain you understand its contents. If you have questions about your insurance policy, contact your insurance agent for clarification. If you still have questions, turn to your state insurance department or insurance counseling program.
- Review your long-term care plans every year
While you probably won’t want to change your entire policy, you may have options to change coverage. Or if you elect not to buy a long-term care policy, revisit that decision periodically.