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-American Society on Aging

"An estimated 12.1 million Americans need assistance from others to carry out everyday activities."
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Long-term care insurance - CARE PLANS - "What if I buy it and never use it?"

By Janet Miesiak

Source: The News-Herald February 25, 2004

The question most often asked by people looking into long-term care insurance is "What if I buy it and never use it?"

The answer is the same for home or car or medical insurance -- you buy the insurance (peace of mind) in case you face the financial risk, but hope you never have to make a claim.

I am amazed that the question isn't more often "What if I don't buy the insurance and need long-term care someday?"

That is a harder scenario to face, with much broader consequences.
But because this is a concern among consumers, the insurance industry has addressed the question in a couple of ways.

Some long-term care insurance companies offer riders that will return premiums to a beneficiary upon the death of the policyholder, usually less any benefits paid out.

Keep in mind that if you go on claim, it is likely that just a few months of benefits will offset all of the premiums you've paid.

The cost of a return of premium rider will depend on your age and the size of your policy.

Consider how insurance works: a company's reserves and paid-in premiums are used to pay out claims. You will pay a substantially higher premium for the possibility of getting that money back.

Another option is a life insurance policy that has a built-in, long-term care feature. You can access the death benefit should you need long-term care. Any remaining death benefit will be paid to your beneficiary.

When deciding the type of policy and the benefit level, you need to meet two objectives. The first is finding the coverage that is appropriate for you and gives you peace of mind. The second is making certain that the premium fits comfortably in your budget.

A long-term care insurance specialist can help you do that. Policies are varied and flexible enough that most people can find a good balance between the two objectives.

What about that other question: "What if I don't buy the insurance and need long-term care some day?"

There are many issues to take into account.

You need to consider the financial cost of care. How much does home care cost? Assisted living? Nursing home? Where is it most likely that you would receive care?

Consider not only the costs today, but also 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. What impact would paying out-of-pocket have on your savings? How much would remain for your spouse or other family members?

Another equally important concern is the emotional and physical cost to your family. Providing care for another person is a very demanding job. Who would be the ones most responsible for your care? How would it affect them? How would their lifestyles need to change to accommodate your needs? How would you feel about these changes being imposed on your family?

Long-term care insurance does not take the place of family care, but it would lessen the burden and assist your family in taking better care of you. Without a long-term care plan in place, a family must resort to crisis management.

All of these questions can be addressed with the help of a long-term care insurance specialist. Only then can you decide which situation you would rather be in: having insurance that you may never use, or dealing with the financial and family challenges of long term care.

Allen Park resident Janet Miesiak is a licensed insurance agent specializing in long-term care insurance. She can be reached at 1-313-382-2353.

Long-term care insurance - CARE PLANS - "What if I buy it and never use it?" By Janet Miesiak
The News-Herald
PUBLISHED: February 25, 2004