Mike McCann, CFP, AIFThe common U.S. life expectancy is 87 years. When you live into your 70s and beyond, the likelihood that you’ll need long-term care is considerable. Of course, much younger people can require these services, too, as a result of accidents or illnesses. About 30 percent of new long-term care insurance claims begins by age 80, and another 25 percent between ages 81 and 85, according to industry data for 2018. It’s important to explore long-term care options sooner rather than later.

Long-term care expenses average from $4,000 to $8,000 per month, depending on the level of care.

Yet, private health insurance policies, Medicare supplemental plans and group/employer plans generally do not cover long-term care costs. Medicare benefits are limited to 100 days and offered only after a hospitalization or injury. The Veterans Administration typically only covers long-term care for those with service-related disabilities.

Long-term care insurance pays for care when you become unable to care for yourself due to a disability or chronic condition; 99 percent of policies cover nursing home, assisted living and home health care. Annual premiums average $2,800. That said, different companies offer different rates and discounts, so premiums can vary by as much as 60 to 90 percent.

Our health changes, especially as we grow older. So it’s smart to look into care options well before reaching retirement age. This is especially true if you have a family history of chronic disease or disability.

There are many options for funding long-term care, and it’s important to gather as much information as possible to find the best one for you. Here are some examples:

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow you to put money aside tax-free for medical costs, including long-term care insurance premiums.
  • Specialty or hybrid products like Life/LTC policies and LTC Annuities are becoming more common.
  • Pensions or Social Security benefits can help, depending upon the amount of money you receive and the care you need.
  • Retirement and other investment savings, if significant, may provide for your long-term care needs.
  • A home equity credit line, reverse mortgage or outright home sale can help fund care.
  • When all options have been exhausted and your income/assets have been depleted, Medicaid programs will cover nursing home care (but not assisted living care).

Before making any decisions, talk with your financial advisor. He or she can help you explore long-term care options and find the best financial solution for you and your family.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (longtermcare.acl.gov), American Assoc. for Long-Term Care Insurance (aaltci.org), Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Morningstar.com Center for Insurance Policy and Research, Genworth.com