By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor
It’s not a secret that the rapidly increasing cost of long-term care is driving dramatic increases in long-term care (LTC) insurance premiums. You may also have been victim or witness to a dramatic increase in long-term care insurance premiums on a policy purchased years ago.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, people realized the potentially huge benefit of buying long-term care insurance. Along with advances in medicine and the benefits of nutrition and exercise, life expectancy increased. Coming with that was the demand for long-term care services, assisted living facilities and home health care. Popularity in long-term care insurance grew exponentially and consumers bought policies with lifetime premiums, ten pay premiums or even single premiums at an affordable price.
Actuaries calculate statistics with acute precision to guide insurance companies to make their profits. However, this is one of very few instances where they missed the mark. Typically, with life and health insurance, a significant number of people will not hold the policy for their lifetime, and the policy will lapse. This lapse rate was miscalculated, as people who purchased these policies held on to them. Furthermore, inflation for this sector of health care was severely under calculated. Simple supply and demand economics manifested cost increases well beyond the costs of other consumer goods and services. Exacerbating the situation was the decrease in interest rates, as long-term bonds are purchased to provide the future benefits.
Now, consumers are experiencing the results of this perfect storm. We are seeing shockingly increased premiums, lowered benefits or even offers by insurance companies to buy-out or provide a dramatically lower paid-up benefit. Thankfully, actuaries have learned the impact of past transgressions and traditional long-term care policies are now priced properly. But what does this mean to you? A very expensive insurance protection, along with the risk that it may never be used, so what should you do?
What happens if you pay for LTC insurance but never actually need it?
Despite long-term care insurance being so costly, I remain steadfast that long-term care protection is paramount to your financial plan! The facts speak for themselves; longtermcare.gov and the AARP agree, 70 percent of people 65 and older will require long-term care and meeting that need will continue to become more expensive.
Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey shows national annual median costs increased across the board for assisted living facilities (6.1%), home care (4.3-4.4%) and skilled nursing facilities (3.2-3.5%). The median monthly cost of an assisted living facility is $4,051, a home health aide costs $4,385 and a private room in a skilled nursing facility $8,517 a month. Genworth estimates these costs will almost double over the next 20 years.
There’s a new option for long-term care planning: hybrid life insurance long-term care policies. Actuaries have been properly pricing life insurance policies for decades. They now know the amount that will be paid out in benefits and when that benefit will be paid. In these hybrid policies, the life insurance benefit can be paid out early if needed for long-term care. If benefits are not used for long-term care, the life insurance amount is paid upon death to the policyholder’s beneficiaries. This addresses the concern of never using the policy. Benefits will not be taxable if paid out for long-term care and the life insurance benefit is paid out income tax free. In the majority of cases, this type of plan outperforms self-funding.
Hybrid policies have a lot going for them:
- They offer flexible premium payment options. You can make one lump-sum payment, pay over ten or twenty years, or pay premiums over time.
- It is often easier to qualify for coverage as the insurer knows what will be paid out in benefits.
- A hybrid policy can also pay for home health care, assisted living, adult day care and even respite care for a loved one.
- Permanent life insurance policies build cash value that can be cashed out in the future if you feel there’s no longer a need for long-term care protection or independent wealth negates the benefit.
You have options…lots of options to choose from
Hybrid life and long-term care policies come in several shapes and sizes.
- Linked benefit policies are true hybrids that link a life insurance policy to a long-term care policy. With these, the typical long-term care benefit amount is close to or equals the life insurance amount. The greater the life insurance amount, the greater the LTC benefits.
- You can also get a long-term care rider on a life insurance policy which only allows you to add LTC coverage at the time you buy the life insurance policy – you can’t add it later.
- There are chronic illness or critical illness riders that let you accelerate the death benefit to pay for care if you have a qualifying chronic lifetime illness.
If you currently own some form of LTC insurance and want to compare which coverage may fit best into your current financial plan, we are here to comprehensively explore all the options and make sure your plan is suitable and won’t blow up at a time when you may need it most.
If you do not yet have any form of LTC insurance, the longer you wait, the more expensive it will become. I highly recommend exploring a hybrid life insurance / long-term care policy and getting it early. The younger and healthier the better! Avoid crisis mode or future exorbitant premiums.
As your financial partner, your WisMed Assure team is here to take care of your personal financial security so that you can take the best possible care of yourself, your family and your patients.
Contact me today to protect your tomorrow.