Friday, November 6, 2020

Long Term Care Awareness Month In the Midst of Covid

November is Long Term Care Awareness Month and Surf Financial Brokers is here to help you understand why planning for your Long Term Care (LTC) is important. And even more so in a year when Covid_19 has ravaged our nursing homes and other facilities housing the chronically ill, as well as their staffs. As we have all seen on the news lately, planning can make the difference between dying alone in a facility or dying at home with access to loved ones.

I'd like to share with you some interesting numbers.* 

  • Average out-of-pocket costs are $140,000 for people who use paid LTC services, and almost 9% will spend over $250,000.
  • About 7.5 million people have LTCI coverage, and LTCI issuers paid about $11 billion in benefits to about 310,000 claimants in 2019.

And with the cost of care increasing each year, many people aren't sure if they can afford to be in a facility. if they may need a LTC insurance policy or what other options are available. 

When you include Covid into the mix, it makes planning more confusing. COVID-19 has  already killed at least 60,000 U.S. nursing home residents, and it appears to be increasing nursing home mortality levels by at least about 20% over the usual levels, according to nursing home Covid impact data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

Needless to say, the virus has changed the landscape and how people plan for their LTC needs. But what are your needs if you were to look at the future from now?

Unfortunately, younger people generally don't consider being chronically ill, until they see it happen to a parent or grandparent. This is usually when they realize how expensive care is, not to mention the wide variety of facilities and other options. LTC planning should be a part of the retirement planning process, as they are not mutually exclusive.

How does one handle the problem of the high costs associated with being chronically ill? First, there is traditional long term care insurance. It can be pricey as you get older and the companies reserve the right to raise your premiums, but these policies will also include some extra features like respite benefits for caregivers and can help pay for care in a facility or in the home. 

The number one objection I hear when showing a long term care policy to a client is "What if I die before I use it?' It's a reasonable question, as the premium cost can be high. One option is a Return of Premium (ROP) rider, which would, as the name implies, return premiums not used to the insured (or their beneficiaries) if they don't use the policy. Unfortunately, this ROP option is nearly as expensive as the actual policy and I have rarely had anyone ask for it.

The other option is to purchase a hybrid policy, typically a life insurance policy with either an LTC rider or "living benefits", which allow the insured to use the policy for their LTC needs. If they die before needing care, the life insurance just pays out. This has become a popular option, especially for younger clients. And we have one company that has begun including this into their term life policies.

The last option is Short Term Home Health Care (STHHC), which pays if you are receiving care in the home. One of the misconceptions we find is that in-home care is cheaper than a facility. This may be true if family members are the caregivers, but if a private company is brought into the home, the costs can be nearly double of a facility. 

A STHHC policy can help you stay in your own home for up to 365 days, which don't necessarily have to be in a row. This is a great option for people who are concerned about Covid in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The policies are very affordable but the applicant must be a minimum of 61 years old. 

If you have questions about LTC planning, let us help. Drop a note on our website or book an appointment for a quick phone call. 

*Figures are from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI)

Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life and disability insurance coverage. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog! Thanks!

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