Bending the Cost Curve or Breaking the Bank with Long-Term Care?

While the Affordable Care Act attempted to “bend the cost curve”, the cost of long-term care remains high and is projected to skyrocket in the future. In Illinois, the median annual cost for a nursing home with a private room was $125,732. (Genworth Financial, Inc., survey). Figuring out how to prepare for your long-term care as well as how to pay for it are major life decisions. It is important to take the time to consider your options, discuss your thoughts with your loved ones, and take affirmative steps to put your plan into place without breaking the bank.

Insurance Options
Two of types of health insurance that many have enrolled in, Medicare or traditional health insurance, do not cover long-term care. Medicare and traditional health insurance provide only short-term solutions. Medicare and private health insurance will cover only skilled care that is medically necessary and relates to a recent hospitalization. Notably, disability insurance does not cover long-term care and often many policies end when you turn 65 since disability insurance is only to replace lost wages, not pay for healthcare costs.

Additionally, Medicare and private insurance only cover individuals for up to 100 days. Further, Medigap insurance, or Medicare Supplement Insurance, can help pay for the “gaps” in Medicare coverage, but coverage stops at day 100. So, while 100 days of nursing home care is covered, what can you do on day 101?

One solution is long-term care insurance. Like traditional health insurance, long-term care insurance comes in many forms. It is best to research in advance what types of coverage you are interested in as well as what is affordable. In determining what policy to buy, you may want to talk to a financial planner, insurance agent, or broker. Also, many employers now offer long-term care insurance policies to their employees. Employer-sponsored policies may have preferable group rates opposed to individual policies.

Planning Ahead

There are many resources available to help you get started in making advanced planning decisions. The American Bar Association offers a number of free, easy-to-understand resources to help you make future health decisions.

Planning for long-term care should be a part of your overall estate plan. Your estate plan should consider both financial and health care decisions. Financial planning should include wills and trusts, as well as durable powers of attorney. As for medical decisions, you should consider creating an advanced directive, living will, and a medical power of attorney to ensure your medical wishes are followed.

Making these complex decisions, it is wise to talk with family and close friends to make your wishes known. To put your wishes into action, you may also want to consider speaking with an attorney or financial planner to ensure that you have the right documents in place.

Before making any final decisions, double-check your eligibility for public and private benefits programs. The National Council on Aging provides a Benefits Check Up to ensure that you are aware of any programs for which you may be eligible.

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