From cars and boats to Betty Grable’s legs, there is an insurance policy to cover nearly any contingency. Long Term Care insurance is certainly no exotic safeguard. We may not all have million-dollar legs, but most of us would likely benefit from some measure of at home care as we age. Just how much insurance you want or can afford, however, can be a bit of a puzzle.
At the “social safety net” level, the sort of insurance all Americans buy into as taxpayers, Medicare offers a degree of at home care benefits. As one might expect, these benefits are available only during fairly extreme circumstances. Medicare allows for specific medical professionals to visit the homes of patients whose infirmities are to a degree that they are essentially housebound. These Medicare benefits are specific, restrictive and limited. And while Medicaid will help with assisted living, this benefit doesn’t begin until a person’s resources are more or less exhausted.
Consider Medicare’s home health care benefits and Medicaid’s assisted living benefits as necessities, not a product designed to improve quality of life and independent aging. For that, it’s best to look to the private sector and long term care insurance.
One easy-to-use resource for navigating this possibly intimidating sector is the American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance‘s online questionnaire. This AALTCI tool asks respondents about the sort of benefits they’re looking for, how long they plan to receive benefits, and other questions that a person may or may not have any idea of, depending on circumstance. After all, as the AALTCI points out, most apply for long-term care insurance when they’re between the ages of 55 and 64, years before most would use it. This information is collected so that an AALTCI-affiliated long-term care professional may later discuss insurance options with respondents.
AALTCI also points out that while many think of long-term care insurance as a means of paying for residency in a nursing home, most consumers use this insurance to pay for at home care.
While such an investment may seem unarguably sound, AARP offers a caution before choosing a plan: “Will you be able to pay the policy’s premiums – now and in the future – without breaking your budget? Premiums often increase over time, and your income may go down. If you find yourself unable to afford the premiums, you could lose all the money you’ve invested in a policy.”
It’s a warning that holds with most insurance policies. Still, there is no avoiding the march of time. And a greater risk than choosing a less-than optimal long-term insurance plan for home health care may be choosing no plan at all.