NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Business

December 7, 2010

Is long-term care insurance worth the cost?

Is long-term care insurance worth the high premiums? There is no objective answer. The answer lies within us; it lies in answering these three questions: Do we want to control how we spend our money in our old age or whom we leave it to? Do we want as much control as possible over how and where we are cared for in our old age?

A word on what long-term care insurance is: It is coverage against the risk of long-term (usually more than three months') chronic (not medical) care frequently required for stroke victims, diabetics and the mentally disabled, among other disabilities. These chronic conditions commonly strike people in their old age.

Chronic care may be offered in our homes. This is the preferred setting. Chronic care is also offered in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. The cost of this care is borne exclusively by the patient, the patient's family or long-term care insurance, except in the case of patients who are destitute or have already spent all of their money. Then Medicaid (not Medicare) will provide nursing-home care only.

The risk is a chronic-care expense that could amount to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. For those of limited means, the insurance makes no sense. For those of great wealth, the insurance may be nothing more than another luxury.

But for the great majority of us in the middle, the insurance may be worth the premiums if protecting our assets (both financial and residential) is important for ourselves or for our families. For some of us, the idea of avoiding dependence on children and others in our old age or the idea of being able to make choices of how and where we are cared for are important enough to buy the insurance.

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