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Be Wise With Money

Questions to Ask

Long-term care insurance & how to get the right coverage

No doubt you've read or heard about the chance of needing care as you age. "The problem is everyone believes those things will happen to someone else," says Harley Gordon, an eldercare attorney in Newton, Massachusetts, and author of In Sickness and In Health, a guide to setting up a long-term health care strategy.

The reality is, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that about 70% of people over the age of 65 will need long-term care services at some point.

While it may not be pleasant to face this possibility, planning ahead may give you a sense of reassurance. When evaluating long-term care insurance contracts, Thrivent Financial representatives Arnette Garris and Tony Valazza recommend asking these questions:

  • What services are covered?
  • How long is the elimination period before benefits start?
  • What happens if I move from one facility to another?
  • How much does the contract pay per day or per month for nursing home care, home health care and assisted living?
  • How long will benefits last?
  • Will the benefits be adjusted for cost-of-living increases?
  • Who determines benefit eligibility – my doctor, the insurance company or someone else?
  • What does the contract cover. (For example, mental or nervous disorders, alcoholism, senile dementia and Alzheimer's?)
  • What has been the history of the insurance company's premium increases?

Most importantly, remember that long-term care isn't just for seniors. The average age of contract buyers is now in the mid-50s, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. The Association notes that anyone age 18 and over may buy it, and of those who have typically needed its benefits, 40% are between age 18 and 64. "They're people like actor Christopher Reeve, who was only 43 when he became a quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse," says Garris.

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