What is it? Long-term-care insurance covers a stay in a nursing facility or home health care.
Care in a nursing home averages $69,000 to $78,000 each year. Home health care ranges from $40,000 to $70,000 annually. Contrary to what many people believe, Medicare won't cover either. Medicaid does, but it's a program designed to help the poor. You will only become eligible for Medicaid once you've exhausted all of your financial assets.
Do you need it? About 70% of people over age 65 will eventually need long-term care. It's not just a risk for older people -- 40% of those who need it are under 65. Still, long-term-care insurance may not be worth it. It depends on your finances, experts say. If you have a modest income and assets, skipping it makes sense.
"The cost of the insurance will take such a big chunk out of your income that it's probably not worth it," says Richard Frank, PhD. Frank is deputy assistant secretary for disability, aging, and long-term care policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. You might be better off paying for long-term care out of pocket, if you need it, and then going onto Medicaid.
People with greater assets will have a lot more money to lose before qualifying for Medicaid. Some choose to protect their finances with long-term-care insurance.
How much does it cost? Long-term care is expensive. And as you get older, the price gets even higher. "Once you get to 65 or 70, the price of long-term-care insurance really shoots up," Frank says.
What else should you consider? If you've decided to get long-term-care insurance, when you buy a policy depends on your situation. But Frank says that people can start thinking about it in their 40s and 50s.
Check to see what state and federal benefits you qualify for, such as:
- Social security
- Workers' compensation
- Medicare and Medicaid
Getting Protection From Medical Costs
Trying to decide on insurance is confusing. If you have health insurance through work, start by talking to the benefits manager. If you need to get insurance on your own, ask family and friends for recommendations about local insurance agents.
"The most important advice is to get some sort of coverage, even if it's not quite the plan you want," Lundquist says. "The worst thing you could do is buy nothing and go without any protection."