As Baby Boomers grow into their sixties, the possibility that at some point soon you may need long-term care becomes a real possibility. Since that kind of care can cost $250/day or more, depending on where you live, it makes sense to at least consider buying insurance.
For those of us who are 65 or older, the odds are that at least 70% of us are going to need some kind of long-term care. We would all like to hope that we will be one of those lucky 30% who don’t end up in a nursing-home; assisted-living center or needing home care but hope isn’t much of a strategy.
If you crunch the numbers, most of us will realize that it won’t take long to completely deplete your life savings, even if you only need that care for a “relatively” short period of time. But like everything that has to do with investment, savings and insurance, we Boomers are notoriously ignorant of the facts.
For example, raise your hand if you think your Medicare benefits cover long-term care. Sorry, folks, it doesn’t. Well, there is always Medicaid, right? Sure there is—once most of your assets (and your spouses) are wiped out. Medicaid does cover several types and amounts of long-term care expenses but you have to be poor to qualify. Even then, with the pressure on legislatures to cut social spending, there is no guarantee what your state will cover or what kind of care you will receive under Medicaid.
Of course, if you have mega-bucks and are part of the one percent, then you might as well pay for that care yourself because you and your family will still have enough to live on no matter how long you need long-term care. It is the remaining 99% of us who may have a problem in the years ahead. As readers know, few Americans have saved enough for retirement and for many of us it is too late to rectify that mistake.
“I just won’t ever be able to retire,” is the glib answer we get, in our effort to dismiss that savings issue. But those words won’t cut it when you become physically incapacitated. If you can’t work, you can’t earn a paycheck.
The critics of long-term care will argue that most people don’t need more than 90 days of long-term care. Most health care policies have a 90-day deductible, which means your long-term care insurance won’t kick in. Most of us are willing to play those odds, even though the statistics indicate that those who need long-term care usually need it for at least a year or two.
The main issue is affordability. The older you are the more expensive insurance becomes. Baby Boomers, by definition, have already passed the threshold where insurance premiums are reasonable. However, what most consumers do not realize is there are a wide range of choices which offer various degrees of security and coverage.
In my next column, I will explore some of those policies and various strategies that readers can employ to reduce long-term care premiums while protecting themselves from that worst-case scenario.