A Helpful Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance

You may not think of long-term care insurance as an end of life issue, but it’s something that aging people (and progressive younger people) are realizing that they need. People are living longer in various states of awareness. For instance, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s may not understand the difficulties of providing long-term care for them, but their family certainly does.

The brochure, Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance, sponsored by the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) www.pueblo.gsa.gov, and written by the AHIP is a good review about long term care insurance. The American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is a national association advocating for the consumer who needs to research and buy a health care plan. The following information is adapted from the AHIP brochure and can be ordered for free at the email address above.

By the year 2020 it is expected that 12 million Americans aged 65 and above will need long-term care insurance. So what it is? It covers things like a visiting nurse, a home health aide, meals delivered to your home, and even services for chores such as bathing and grooming. Most importantly it lets people decide if they want to be at home, a nursing home, or assisted living facility. It gives people a choice.

The cost depends on where you are residing. Nursing home costs for a year can average over $50,000. In home care is expensive too, $12,000 a year and up, and even assisted living facilities can cost $24,000 a year.

Generally Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care insurance and Medicaid only covers about half of the cost of a nursing home. It’s important that client families understand that the government won’t pay for all of their long-term care needs.

The brochure lists 17 questions to ask before purchasing long-term care insurance. Here are a few that stood out:

• How much does the policy pay per day for nursing home care? Home health care? Assisted living facility? Adult Daycare? Alternate care? Respite care?

• Does the policy have a maximum lifetime benefit?

• How long must I wait before preexisting conditions are covered?

• Does the policy offer an inflation adjustment feature?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) says that qualified long-term care insurance receives the same tax treatment as accident and health insurance. However, you should refer your client family to a financial planner or tax advisor regarding eligible deductions available to them.

In conclusion, every state has a Department of Insurance that regulates the industry. You can find their contact information on the web or in the blue government pages of your phone book.

Caring for an Aging Loved One

Did you know the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) has a plethora of information for the client families you serve? Our aging population is looking to you, the End of Life Professional for solutions to their problems and answers to their questions. Most of what the FCIC offers on-line is free (www.pueblo.gsa.gov), and several brochures can be ordered at no cost in small quantities.

This week we are reviewing “Caring for an Aging Loved One”, a free 28 page brochure filled with numerous gems of advice. It includes topics such as How Will You Know Your Loved One Needs Assistance, Developing a Care Plan, Organizing Documents and Paperwork, Who Pays for Long-Term Care, and many more.

Some of the more useful pages in the brochure include information on aging websites. Here are a few off the beaten path that you may not have heard of before.

www.benefitscheckup.org. This website was developed by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to help people determine benefit eligibility in their area. It’s easy to navigate the site and you can feel comfortable referring your families to it.

www.aahsa.org American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. This site has some fantastic questionnaires and suggestions for people who are facing aging issues.

www.caregiver.org The Family Caregiver Alliance founded in 1977 is headquartered in California; their website is in English, Spanish, and Chinese. They have a great archived newsletter, and although many topics on the site are referenced to the State of California, the information provided can be helpful to everyone.

The sites I didn’t recommend were mostly the ones that ended in .gov, or had too much content. Before you refer a client family to a website it is important that you have visited it and feel it is beneficial to them.

Be specific, tell your client family, “Go to www.caregiver.org, click on the Newsletter banner at the top and then click on the Legislation to Watch icon about half way down the page.” Even better, just email them the link to the page you think may be helpful.

Referring clients to a website that is content heavy or with little relevance to them can be frustrating. All of the information we have at our fingertips can be overwhelming. Our job as a professional is to first screen it, then filter it, only then, pass it on. This brochure is worth passing on, even if all of the websites referenced are not.