Finance Quick Answers
What types of long term care policies are there and how do I choose one?
Long term care policies are available as individual or group policies (usually cheaper than individual policies). Many employers are now offering employees the option of purchasing long term care insurance as an employee benefit. It may be possible to purchase coverage for the employee, his/her spouse and parents/parents-in-law. In most cases, it is necessary to pass a health examination in order for coverage to be approved.
Consider the following when choosing a policy:
- Types of Services Covered. Most policies today offer coverage for a full range of care services including services provided at home, in an adult day center, in assisted living facilities, and in a nursing home. Many also include coverage for respite care, hospice care, or other 'alternative care setting.'
- Daily Maximum Benefit. Most long term care insurance policies are 'indemnity' policies (the policy pays a fixed dollar amount for each day you receive covered services). In order to purchase a policy with the appropriate maximum daily benefit, you will want to find out what the cost of services is where you live or will receive services. Call nursing homes and home health agencies and ask about their fees.
- Duration of Benefits. Policies usually limit benefits to a maximum dollar amount or a maximum number of days. You can designate the length of time benefits will be paid from one year to a lifetime. The longer the length of time, the higher the premium will be. For most people, a policy covering 3-5 years will be more cost-effective.
- Benefit Triggers. All policies contain provisions that determine if and when benefits are payable, which are referred to as benefit triggers. Typically benefits are payable when a person can't perform a certain number of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, continence, transferring and using the toilet. Cognitive impairment from Alzheimer's disease should also trigger benefits. It is important to understand what the company will use to determine when benefits will be payable.
- Inflation Protection. Inflation protection, which increases the insurance benefit by the rate of inflation, is essential to ensure that you have adequate coverage years from now. In Missouri, companies must offer you inflation protection, which should be in writing. Many consumers are reluctant to pay for policies that offer inflation protection because the premiums cost more. But, if you buy the policy when you are in your 50s or 60s, the inflation protection rider is the only way to be sure that the coverage will be adequate when you need it in 20 or 30 years.
Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, Former Assistant Professor and State Specialist, Consumer and Family Economics
Last update: Thursday, July 24, 2008