long-term care insuranceBuyers of Long-Term Care Insurance Prefer Home Care

by Ann Carrns

via New York Times

Long-term care insurance, which can help cover the cost of extended care if you’re unable to care for yourself, is something no one really wants to think about. It’s a product you buy, after all, in the hope that you will never have to use it.

On top of that, coverage is increasingly expensive and confusing — and it is sometimes hard to get the insurance company to pay out the benefits, even when it seems clear that a policy’s requirements have been met.

Yet it is something many people in their 50s, 60s and older are thinking about a great deal, as I learned when reporting on an article for this week’s Your Money section. Rather than seeking the insurance as a way to cover the cost of a nursing home, some people see it as a way to keep themselves out of a nursing home — to provide a decent quality of life in their own homes, when they become frail. They have seen the difference, often with a family member, between in-home care and nursing home care, and they want in-home care for themselves as long as possible. They want insurance to pay for that care, so they do not burden their adult children or other family members.

While fear of a nursing home is often visceral and can be a strong motivator for buying long-term care insurance, elder law specialists say consumers must set aside that emotion when buying a policy so that they are clear on what their policies do and do not cover.

Years ago, policies were sold that offered “lifetime” benefits. But such coverage is too expensive now for most people, so most policies offer a fixed pool of benefits to be used over time. To further keep down the costs of annual premiums, companies are offering policies without built-in inflation protection, on the theory that some coverage is better than none. That means, however, that the benefits will not go as far when the policyholder needs them, years in the future. The difference will have to be made up out of the policyholder’s own pocket.

Have you considered buying long-term care insurance? If you have bought it, what sort of coverage does your policy offer? And if you have used it, tell us about your experience.

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