I could talk for quite a while about why planning ahead for our health care is so very important for ourselves and our loved ones…and why setting up savings and possibly insurance solutions are key to maintaining our choices, independence, and dignity. But for today’s post, I’ll focus on sharing five top misconceptions about long term care to offer some food for thought for the week.
1) Long term care issues are for older seniors only. Actually, over one-half of those people needing long term care attention are under the age of 50 – due to unexpected illness, accidents, and early onset of diseases. We pay for home and auto insurance, for example, and hope we don’t need to go through the experience of using it – but yet health issues may also sideline us at any time too…and it’s a prudent part of planning to protect that very valuable asset too.
2) Long term care equates to nursing home care. Most people who need long term care will benefit most from home care and assisted living – and that’s where most people would prefer to stay to enhance their comfort and quality of life. It’s definitely not a choice between no care and a skilled nursing home/hospital setting.
3) You should wait until your 60’s before looking at long term care planning. You may need long term care at any age (see point #1) and if you are thinking about using long term care insurance as some form of risk sharing, then waiting until age 60 and over could well be too late – as insurance gets progressively more expensive later in life and there’s also a much higher chance that you will have developed some health problem(s) before then that could adversely affect policy underwriting. So it may well make sense both financially and personally to be insured at a much younger age.
4) Long term care insurance is too expensive so I’m not even going to look at it. It’s true that many of the original insurance policy premiums written 10-20 years ago have increased quite a bit due to the current low interest rates, low lapse trends, and top end features. However, there are plenty of newer solutions available to provide flexible coverage – often with state tax benefits, pooled benefits for couples, and custom riders – so it’s a smart move to meet with an experienced professional to get the real scoop.
5) Medicare will cover long term care if I need it. All publicly funded programs are under immense financial pressures and this situation will only increase in coming years with a larger population. So, first, any current benefits such as for home hospice care and skilled nursing will likely be further constrained going forward. Secondly, under such general programs, there is very limited personal choice and flexibility for care options – rather a “take it or leave it” last resort scenario as these types of programs were originally intended as a final safety net only. And even when people do meet the health care criteria for coverage, income and assets must be greatly reduced before Medicare begins payment.