Long-Term Care Insurance
What is ‘Long-Term Care’?
Because of old age, mental or physical illness, or injury, some people find themselves in need of help with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting or continence, and/or transferring (e.g., getting out of a chair or out of bed). These six actions are called Activities of Daily Living–sometimes referred to as ADLs. In general, if you can’t do two or more of these activities, or if you have a cognitive impairment, you are said to need “long-term care.”
Long-term care isn’t a very helpful name for this type of situation because, for one thing, it might not last for a long time. Some people who need ADL services might need them only for a few months or less.
Many people think that long-term care is provided exclusively in a nursing home. It can be, but it can also be provided in an adult day care center, an assisted living facility, or at home.
Assistance with ADLs, called “custodial care,” may be provided in the same place as (and therefore is sometimes confused with) “skilled care.” Skilled care means medical, nursing, or rehabilitative services, including help taking medicine, undergoing testing (e.g. blood pressure), or other similar services. This distinction is important because Medicare and most private health insurance pays only for skilled care–not custodial care.
Will I need long-term care?
If you’re under 55, it’s unlikely. Even over 55, only a small percentage of the population will need long-term care before they are in their 70s or 80s.
However, according to research published in the journal Inquiry by Kemper, Komisar, and Alecxih, most people who turn 65 in 2005 will, in their lifetime, need some level of long-term care.
Recent trends suggest that 50 percent or more of the people who might have gone into a nursing home for long-term care will in the future go into an assisted living facility. Assisted living facilities generally cost less than nursing homes. For example, in mid-2005, a MetLife Mature Market Institute survey found a national average daily cost of assisted living facilities of $100, with a range from $55 to $155 across the U.S.
The good news is that people are living healthier longer—that, in other words, the need for long-term care is diminishing and, when it occurs, the onset of need for long-term care is, on average, occurring later and later in life and starting closer to death (so that future periods of long-term care needs may be shorter than at present). In part, this is due to the adoption of better prevention strategies and better medical practices. Even so, if you do need long-term care services, they can be expensive.
How much does long-term care cost?
The fact that you might need long-term care doesn’t mean that you have to pay someone to provide it. Many people who need help get it for free from a relative or friend, usually at home. In a recent survey of people over 50, roughly 90 percent said they expect to be the primary caregiver if their spouse or partner needs long-term care.
But even unpaid caregivers need a break from time to time, or have full- or part-time jobs that prevent them from caregiving throughout the day. If you do pay someone to provide assistance with ADLs, the cost of long-term care depends on three factors – the general level of charges in your part of the country, the specific expense rate for the services you need, and how long the need for care lasts.
In August 2005, the average cost for a month in a semiprivate room in a nursing home ranged from a low of $3,000 in Shreveport, LA, to a high of $9,250 in New York City, according to a survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMI). A year-long stay translates to $36,850 in Shreveport and $112,400 in New York City.
The MMI also surveyed covered costs of Assisted Living and Home Health Care. In August 2005, the lowest average monthly base rate for an Assisted Living facility was $1,650 in Jackson, MS area and the highest was $4,300 in the Stamford, CT. area.
In August 2005, the lowest average hourly rate for a home health aide was $12 in Shreveport, and the highest was $23 in Rochester, MN. If you need a home health aide around-the-clock, these rates translate to a daily rate ranging from $288 to $552, or a monthly rate of $8,640 to $16,550.
Finally, don’t forget that long-term care costs, like most health care costs, are rising faster than the general rate of inflation. The bottom line? A four-year-or-longer stay in a nursing home could cost $200,000 to $450,000 or more (in today’s dollars). If you can’t pay this out of your own pocket and aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, you should consider buying long-term care insurance.
What’s the best age to buy long-term care insurance?
- The younger you are, the less likely it is that you’ll be rejected when you apply for the policy. If you apply in your 50s, there’s a one in ten chance you’ll be rejected. If you apply in your 60s, the chance of rejection is two in ten. If you apply in your 70s, the chance of rejection is four in ten.
- The younger you are, the lower the premium will be for a given set of benefits and features. Once the premium is set, it stays at that amount for the life of the policy, unless the claims for the group of people who have bought that type of policy require that rates for the group be raised.
Source: Insurance Information Institute