Saturday, March 25, 2023

One Bucket Or Two? - Another Long Term Care Option

When people are planning for retirement, one very important piece of the puzzle is often neglected. While thinking of once-in-a-lifetime trips and pickleball sound fun, long term care expenses have to be part of the equation. 

As mentioned in a previous post, the "no go years" happen when one's health deteriorates into a chronic illness. Caregivers are expensive in a facility and can cost even more to be in a client's home. In a short amount of time an entire retirement savings can be gone.

I like to say that people who buy Long Term Care insurance (LTCi) are "forward thinkers". And for many younger "forward thinkers", say under 40 years of age, it can be cost effective to look into a life insurance policy with "living benefits", which can be used for long term care expenses, instead of a traditional LTCi policy.  In other words, one could use their life insurance while they are still alive.

These types of policies come in different formats and pricing. Generally speaking, here are a few difference in these hybrid life/LTCi combo policies.

  • Underwriting: Since the policy is a life insurance policy, the underwriting guidelines may be different. I've seen LTCi policies be declined, yet the client is approved for a life insurance policy. However, if the LTCi portion is a separate rider, it can be underwritten apart from the life insurance. 
  • Benefit payments: Many of the policies with Chronic Illness riders or equivalent Living Benefits pay the benefits directly to the insured, but some with true LTCi benefits may require receipts for reimbursement. Check with you agent to find out which is best for your needs.
Traditionally, these "living benefits" were found exclusively on permanent life insurance policies, like whole or universal life. Recently we found a carrier who also offers a term life policy with the living benefits included. 

There is one important part of this combo life insurance/LTCi piece that needs to be covered. Generally speaking, if you decide to purchase one of these products, be aware that if you become chronically ill and need the benefits to cover the cost of your care, you may exhaust your life insurance benefits which could be of use to your survivors when you die.

This is where the buckets come in. Many of these policies have one bucket of money, and like stated above, can be used for either life insurance or long term care expenses, but not both. (I have seen a version that keeps a small amount of life insurance aside, say $10,000). 

On the other hand, there are also policies with two buckets of money, with each being able to pay out. For example, let's say you have a $100,000 policy and have a stroke. You can use up to the $100,000 for your care until that bucket is empty. If you should die, the second bucket is still full for your life insurance needs. 

The "two bucket" policy can cost more, and that is because of the potential for paying out twice (once for your chronic illness, again at your death). 

Let's try another example of the same $100,000 policy, but change things up a bit. Again, you have a stroke, but after using half of the money, $50,000, you pass away. At that point the life insurance bucket pays out it's $100,000, so the total payout is $150,000.

When I talk to clients about LTCi one objection is raised far more than others. "What if I die before I need it?" It's a reasonable question, because LTCi can be expensive and if someone were to suddenly pass away, the premiums would be for nought. However, with a combo plan, it will still pay out the death amount, so nothing is "wasted". 

Also, traditional LTCi policies have a claus that states that the insurance carrier has the right to raise the premiums of policies that are in force if they need to. This happened after the Great Recession of 2008. The insurance companies had invested heavily into the stock market, and when the market dropped so did the amount of money on hand needed to pay claims. Several companies raised premiums 15-20%, with at least one carrier going for a second premium rate hike not long after the first. With life insurance, your rate is locked in.

Combo products can be a useful part of an insurance plan for a lot of people but make sure you ask your agent or insurance broker about your options and how it will pay if you need it.

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!

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