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Taking Care of Making Sure: LTCI

If you are thinking about long-term care insurance – and you should be – here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You must qualify for long-term care insurance.  And this, of course, means health-qualify.  Not everyone who wants the coverage will able to get it.  When you apply, you will be asked a series of health and medical questions.  You know that your health can change, especially as you get older.  You want to look into LTCI before retirement age.  Most experts suggest that your 50’s are the best time to get started.
  • Health qualifications vary from one insurer to another.  If you eat properly, don’t use tobacco, are in great health, take no meds, have a terrific family history, then, of course, all the insurers will gladly okay your application.   But such impeccable heath history is not the norm.  It’s good to know that each insurer develops its own set of health-qualifications and they change them, too.  This means what one company would reject another might accept.  A professional agent, knowledgeable about LTCI, will know who takes what.  Be ready to have a pretty candid conversation with your agent, by the way.  This will help him or her match you with a company offering the best plan for the best price.
  • Premium rates can vary significantly from one insurance company to another.  Here again, a good agent can make all the difference.  Each insurer has pricing ‘sweet spots’ based on your age when you apply – one carrier is better for a single man in his mid-50’s with carefully controlled blood pressure, while another is great for a sporty widow closer to 60.  Discounts and options also vary.  When you work with an agent who has access to policies from a range of insurers, you are far more likely to find a comfortable fit.
  • Long-term care can be far more affordable that most of us think.  Let’s be honest here.  Cost is a huge issue.  Know that there are many ways to design a plan that makes this protection affordable.
  • You purchase long-term care insurance only once. Remember that the cost of LTCI is primarily based on your age when you apply.  This means that it is almost never economically sound to switch insurance companies once you have made your decision to buy the coverage.   And the decision to buy LTCI is both emotional and financial; it is not easy to think about needing such care and paying for it well in advance takes discipline.  Again, you need to work with an experienced and trustworthy insurance professional who knows his or her stuff.  It will save you money in the long run, and the benefits will be there when you need them most.
What are the biggest mistakes to avoid when it comes to LTCI? Consider the following:
  • I will never need this kind of thing – nothing will happen to me!  This is either big time denial or magical thinking.  Denial, of course, is one of the best reasons not to plan or prepare.  No one wants to have a major accident or endure a lingering or painful illness.  But the longer we live, the more likely it is that we will need time and care as we recover from something pretty serious.  Planning for the future gives us hope, it doesn’t take it away!
  • I have lots of time to worry about my old age!  Waiting too long to plan is a big problem.  And doing your research about long-term care insurance doesn’t mean you have to buy the policy today, either.  You need to know what your options are.  Find out what a policy might cost, one with all the bells and whistles, maybe one a bit more basic.  If you take prescription medications regularly, or have some health challenges, find out where, or if, you can health-qualify.  And find out what changes in your present health may make it impossible to qualify.  Do your homework.
  • I am counting on government programs to step in.  Seriously?  Are you keeping up with the news?  And no matter what happens in Washington, those programs offer very little by way of options or choices.  If you want to stay in your home or keep your independence, start making that plan.  
  • I can sort this out on my own.  This is not discount auto insurance or a basic group DI product.  There are so many variables to consider with LTCI: costs; acceptable health conditions; discounts and options – the list is long.  Work with an experienced and knowledgeable professional.  Ask questions.  As we keep saying, insurance is a complex world.   You deserve a plan that suits your individual situation, offered by a financially sound insurance company that will be there when you make a claim.  Promptly!
Next up: more LTCI do’s and don’ts; how the plans are designed and work, what all those strange terms mean…
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