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Taking The Mystery Out Of Long-term Care Insurance


Here's the good news: with improvements in medicaltechnology and healthier lifestyles, people are livinglonger. Life expectancy today has increased to 83 years, upfrom 78 years in 1940 (The Shopper's Guide to Long-term CareInsurance from the National Association of InsuranceCommissioners).

However, the longer people live, the greater the chancesthey will need assistance due to chronic health conditions. Today, about 12.8 million Americans of all ages require sometype of long-term care (National Academy on Aging, 1997). This number is expected to climb as the baby boomergeneration moves into retirement. Over a lifetime, nearly50 percent of all people will require some type of long-termcare assistance.

One way to pay for some or all of your long-term careexpenses is insurance. First introduced in the 1980s,long-term care insurance was originally designed as nursinghome insurance. Today's long-term care policies now covermuch more. They include home health care, assisted livingfacility care, adult day care, Alzheimer's facility care,respite care and hospice care.

So how does long-term care insurance work? Long-term careinsurance is not health insurance, and long-term careexpenses are not covered under private health insurance,Medicare or Medicare supplement policies.

However, long-term care insurance is similar to healthinsurance in that an individual must apply for coverage bygoing through medical underwriting. The insurance companydecides whether to offer long-term care coverage based onyour current health conditions and age. In most instances,a person's medical records will be reviewed by the insurancecompany. Additionally, some applicants may be required tohave a face-to-face or a telephone interview. Not everyoneis insurable. People who already have health problems arelikely to need long-term care but won't be able to buy along-term care insurance policy. Your money may pay forlong-term care insurance coverage, but it's your health thatbuys it.

Once a long-term care policy is issued, the insuredindividual becomes eligible to receive benefits once ahealthcare professional certifies the insured is"chronically ill" -- unable to perform two of the Activitiesof Daily Living (ADLs) for a period of 90 days or longer; orbe severely cognitively impaired. ADLs include bathing,eating, dressing, toileting, transferring (moving into orout of a bed, chair or wheelchair) and continence.

"At what age should I apply for long-term care insurance?" Generally, experts suggest you apply between ages 50 and 55. The younger you are when you apply, the better the chanceyou will be healthy enough to qualify. It's also duringthese years prior to retirement that your income is normallyat its highest and you're better able to pay the insurancepremiums.

Long-term care insurance policies vary widely. Aprofessional specializing in long-term care insurance can bea great resource to consumers in considering the manyoptions available today.

Brent Dees, president of Brent Dees Financial, is a small business coach and financial planner who teaches the Focus Four system. He helps business owners in the Carolinas set business and personal goals so they can work less and make more. Brent Dees Financial can be found on the web at

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