What are the best long-term care insurance alternatives?
If you’re looking for affordable alternatives to long-term care insurance, you might have more options than you think. Let’s find out more.
Long-term care (LTC) insurance helps cover essential medical costs like nursing home or home care fees for older people.
Exploring your long-term care options
LTC insurance is available to people aged 65 and over in the US with an ongoing disability or condition requiring care.
You can buy a policy (and, in fact, you’re recommended to) before age 65, but you won’t be able to access financial support through the policy until you reach the requisite age.
For some, purchasing an excellent LTC plan provides terrific peace of mind in the twilight years, covering essential expenses like nursing homes, home care, and assisted living.
7 out of 10 people will likely need LTC in the future, and without an LTC plan or private healthcare, your future care expenses might add up to something totally unaffordable.
When you put it like that, LTC insurance seems like the best and only choice.
But though there are a few different options for LTC insurance, and it’s more accessible than fully private healthcare, an LTC policy is not viable or possible for everyone.
Individuals on lower incomes might still find an LTC plan too expensive, and insurers rarely provide policies to people over 75.
If either scenario mirrors your situation, and you’re interested in researching the alternatives to LTC insurance, you’re in luck.
Other options are out there, and though you still need to consider many of the same influencing factors (age, location, health, etc.), you might be able to reduce the cost of your LTC by exploring them.
7 out of 10 people will likely need long-term care in the future
The best alternatives to long-term care insurance
Hybrid and asset-based policies – These types of policies enable you to receive returns on your money even if you never use the insurance, negating the risk that you’ll take out LTC insurance only to never even need it. BUT they’re also costly, so they aren’t accessible to individuals on lower incomes.
Short-term care policies – These generally cover you for a period ranging from a few months to one year. They’re much cheaper than LTC policies and don’t have an elimination period, BUT they’re not regulated in the same way as LTC plans, so they aren’t always held to the same levels of consumer protection scrutiny. They also often don’t guarantee renewal when the care period ends.
Relying on existing savings – It’s never too early to start saving, and if you’ve saved enough by your old age to cover your out-of-pocket expenses, you won’t have to risk paying through the nose for LTC insurance that you never need. BUT if you do spend savings on care, you’ll reduce the amount that any heirs or dependents inherit from you when you die.
Relying on loved ones – If you’re a retiree or soon-to-be retiree with a large circle of loved ones and family, especially younger family like children and grandchildren, you might find you’re able to do a little of this and a little of the point above, never needing to rely on insurance. BUT there are no guarantees in life, and depending on loved ones for financial and medical support is its own risk, just as investing in insurance could be considered a risk.
Selling property – If one of your most significant barriers to accessing LTC insurance is your age and you’re already reaching your golden years, you might consider freeing up your cash to cover care costs by selling your home, provided the housing market is in a stable position. You could also apply for a reverse mortgage, BUT as these are quite complex, we recommend approaching a financial advisor to check if doing so is the right option.
Selling your life insurance – If you have a life insurance policy, it’s worth considering selling it. While life insurance is important, the proceeds from selling your policy are likely to be much higher than yielding it for cash value. BUT bear in mind that a) proceeds are taxed, and b) there’s then no guarantee of a death benefit for those you leave behind.
Annuities – These are another excellent option. You provide an insurer with a one-time lump sum, and in return, they give you consistent income to cover care. Even if you’re in poor health, you can easily get an annuity. BUT this isn’t such a great option for less wealthy individuals as the lump sum must usually be over $50,000, and the income you receive may not cover that many services.
Critical illness insurance – More than 600,000 Americans currently have critical illness insurance policies. These policies cover certain acute illnesses (cancer diagnoses, strokes, and heart attacks, mainly), and there are no restrictions on what you can use the money you receive for. BUT this insurance won’t cover you if you suffer from any chronic conditions, and benefit amounts received can be small (anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000).
Key LTC considerations
Whether you’re leaning towards taking out an LTC plan or thinking one of the alternatives listed above might suit you better, you still need to consider your specific needs and how they compare to others to assess costs and expectations.
Your health – The average 65-year-old in good health pays $1,400 annually for health insurance. If they have some health issues, they pay $2,100. If you’re in bad health or have an ongoing condition, an LTC plan may be more expensive than you anticipate.
Your age – Whatever the route you end up going down, the best time to start exploring your LTC options is in your mid-50s (or earlier). The later you leave it to think about the future, the more the future may cost.
The probability that you’ll need LTC – There’s always a chance you won’t need LTC and, therefore, won’t need to have paid for LTC insurance. Only you can say how much this balancing act of potential needs matters to you.
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Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.