Will Long Term Care Insurance Last?

A recent article in Investment News, a publication for investment advisors, examines the possibility that long-term care (LTC) insurance may go the way of the dinosaur. The article notes the recent mass exodus of insurance companies offering the product.
Over the last three years, Unum Group, Guardian, MetLife (MET), and Allianz have all exited the business. And Prudential (PRU) said in March it would stop issuing individual LTC insurance.

The problem for insurance companies is that they had little idea of what they would actually need to pay out since they had so little experience. Insurance companies collect premiums for years before the vast majority of the insured will become old enough to need the care. That problem is compounded by the low fixed-income returns insurance companies are making on the premiums.

Insurance companies that have stayed in the LTC business have had large rate increases. That naturally drives healthier plan members to drop coverage, making those who remain in pool more likely to need care. This happens year after year (the healthier leave and the sick stay) leading to an insurance phenomenon known as the “death spiral.” Eventually, the product or insurance company collapses under its own weight.

Is LTC insurance right for you?

For years, I’ve been somewhat agnostic on long term care insurance because of the uncertainty over premium increases. My first advice is that, if you can self-insure, don’t buy it. Yes, assisted living is expensive, but don’t forget the costs you will save by not traveling, needing a car, etc. On the other hand, I also think you don’t need such coverage even if you have little money set aside. Save the premiums and live a nicer lifestyle. If you ever need assisted living, just understand that Medicaid may not provide the most luxurious care.

If you do buy LTC insurance, buy a plan that allows fixed premiums over, say, 10 years that then fully pays all premiums. That way, the insurance company can’t raise your rates later. Consider partial self-insurance by buying longer wait periods and even skipping the inflation rider. Make sure it’s from a highly rated insurance company (although my confidence in ratings agencies such as S&P and Moody’s (MCO) is shaken).

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Obama Leads Poll on Support on Long Term Care Insurance

In a tight presidential race, voter sentiment on religion, race, jobs or contraception could tip the balance. Or “the decisive issue just might be a health problem that jeopardizes almost every American family,” says Jonas Roeser, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Operations for LTC Financial Partners LLC (LTCFP), one of the nation’s most experienced long term care insurance agencies.

“Almost 3 in 4 people over 65 will need long-term care at some point, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” he says. “But most don’t have a plan to pay for this care, meaning their close relatives could be hit hard in the pocketbook. That includes just about everybody.”

So far the candidates have been mute on the long-term care insurance (LTCI) issue, and it’s high time for them to speak out, according to Roeser. So, to gain attention, his organization launched a straw poll on March 26. It asked just one question:

* Which candidate (President Barack Obama or the Republican choice) is more likely to promote new federal incentives to help Americans afford private long-term care insurance?

About a third, 33 percent, picked President Obama, while two-thirds, 67 percent, picked the Republican candidate, whoever it might be. “If this reflects the feelings of the broad population,” says Roeser, “it could be a wake-up call for President Obama and his people. And it could be something the Republicans can make hay with.”

President Obama might have been seen as the champion of long-term care insurance, since his Affordable Care Act included a public option for LTCI, the CLASS Act. But in October, 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that her department was halting implementation of CLASS since a way could not be found to make it self-sustaining. “Now we need to rely entirely on the private sector,” says Roeser, “but the government can still help by introducing new tax breaks or other incentives to make it easier for people to protect themselves.”

Both candidates have an equal opportunity to work with Congress to make it happen, Roeser asserts. “Both can and should state their intentions now and frequently during the campaign. Doing so can be good for the country, and who knows? It just might determine who makes it into the White House.”

The straw poll will be kept open right up until the presidential election on November 6, tracking change in voter sentiment. “It will be an interesting horse race,” says Roeser. “Will the Republican candidate stay way ahead, or will President Obama close the gap and maybe win by a nose?”

Votes may be cast at either of two locations: http://www.ltcfp.com/2012poll or http://ltcguild.ning.com/page/election-poll . After voting, the visitor may view the latest, updated percentages and find other information about the LTC issue.

The straw poll is supported by the Long Term Care Insurance Guild, the social network for LTCI and allied professionals.

Medicaid Alabama Launches Latest Long Term Care Plans

Three new long-term care options for elderly and disabled Medicaid recipients were announced Friday in Mobile at a news conference by Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Dr. Bob Mullins Jr.
Two of the options are statewide initiatives. The third, known as PACE, short for Program of All-Inclusive Care, will be limited, for now, to recipients in Mobile and Baldwin counties ages 55 and older who meet certain criteria.
All three options are aimed at offering more long-term care choices for those who may not have been able to afford high long term care insurance costs in the past.
Mullins spoke prior to the grand opening of Mercy LIFE on Springhill Avenue, an inclusive-care facility where those who qualify for Medicaid and Medicare, and meet other criteria, have begun participating in PACE.
Mercy LIFE is the first in the state to become designated for PACE.
Twenty-three patients have been accepted into the Mercy’s PACE program thus far, and there are plans to enroll as many as 200 in the next few years.
The PACE participants at Mercy typically live at home, but visit Mercy several times a week to see a doctor, eat daytime meals, stop by the chapel, have laundry done or play board games. Mercy also offers rehabilitative services.
“It’s one of the few programs that has been shown to increase quality of life without increasing costs,” said Dr. J. Eugene Lammers, new medical director at Mercy LIFE, which stands for Living Independently for Elders. “It works.”
The reason it works, said Lammers and Mullins, is because people tend to do better when they live at home or with family.
“The ultimate goal,” Lammers said, “is to keep them in the community where they want to be.”
The two other programs announced by Mullins Friday include would:
• Help some patients with physical disabilities who are living in nursing homes to transition back home and receive care there.
• Assist patients who depend on a ventilator to breathe get treatment closer to home.
PACE provides comprehensive services and support to Medicaid and Medicare enrollees by enlisting a team of health professionals who create care plans.
PACE funding is capped, but providers have flexibility to deliver services by need.
The state pays about $55,000 a year for a Medicaid patient to live in a nursing home. For PACE, the state will pay about $41,000, a significant savings, Mullins said.

How to Plan for Long Term Care in Pennsylvania

About nine million people over the age of 65 will need long-term care this year, according to Medicare.gov, and that number is expected to rise to 12 million by the year 2020. Fortunately, thanks in part to the increasing demand as the baby boomer generation moves toward retirement, people with long-term care needs have more options today than in years past.

What Is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of medical and non-medical services for elderly individuals, as well as for those with disabilities or chronic illnesses. In most cases, long-term care helps people meet day-to-day health and personal needs like dressing, eating and bathing.

Long-term care comes in many different forms, including:
-In-home care: People who receive in-home care can continue living at home while getting the help they need from care providers who come and go on a regular basis according to the individual’s needs. Depending on the situation, in-home care may be limited to everyday tasks like bathing and eating, or may include more specialized health care services.

-Assisted living facilities: An assisted living facility is a group housing arrangement that provides on-site services for elderly and disabled individuals. Residents often have their own apartments and live relatively independently with easy access to the care they need.
-Nursing home care: Nursing homes are similar to assisted living facilities in that they provide on-site care to residents, but the level of care provided by nursing homes tends to be far more intensive. Typically, nursing home residents are older individuals who require constant care.

Costs of Long-Term Care

With increased options comes a greater need for careful planning — but, unfortunately, most people are unprepared. According to a survey conducted by Lincoln Financial Group, only 44 percent of Americans have taken steps to plan for their long-term care and compared long term care quote.

In Pennsylvania, the median cost of in-home care is $19 per hour for homemaker services and $20 per hour for home health aide services, both of which are slightly above the national average. Meanwhile, the median cost of assisted living in Pennsylvania is close to average at $39,015 per year, and the median cost of nursing home care is well above average at $99,280, according to MarketWatch.com.

Legal Help

Although the task of planning and preparing for long-term care may seem overwhelming, there are a wide range of resources and options available to help create a plan that works for your circumstances. To discuss the type of care you want and create a plan for financing it, contact a certified elder lawyer experienced in helping clients plan for their long-term care.

Younger Buyers Attracted to New Types of Long Term Care Insurance

The sale of asset-based long-term care insurance protection continued to grow significantly according to research by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance the national trade organization. According to data gathered from leading insurers, premium increased nearly 20 percent and the number of covered lives increased 13.5 percent.

“We expect the sale of asset based or linked long term care insurance http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance products will continue to grow as they offer some highly attractive benefits to a category of buyers shopping for long term care quote early and looking to protect their retirement savings,” states Jesse Slome, AALTCI’s director. “The growth of sales will only continue as more large players enter the marketplace.” Pacific Life recently introduced a universal life insurance policy that provides long-term care benefits.

According to the Association’s annual study of new policy sales, more than half (53%) of male buyers were under age 65. In the prior year’s study, only 48 percent were under age 65. The percentage of women buyers under age 65 also increased to 50 percent, up from 44 percent in the prior year.

“We are seeing two market conditions fueling growth,” Slome explains. “Younger buys facing a long time horizon before needing care favor the money-back provision of these policies and older buyers are being priced out of the market for traditional long-term care insurance making this a more attractive option.” “At a time when long-term care is increasingly top of mind, these life insurance-based solutions avoid the ‘use it or lose it’ risk associated with traditional long term care insurance,” says Chris Coudret, CLU, ChFC, Vice President, OneAmerica one of the nation’s leading insurers offering linked benefit solutions. “In most cases, people make a single payment, effectively removing the risk of future high long term care insurance costs.”

For 2011, the Association study found that the initial single premium face amount of policies purchased was $100,000 or greater for nearly three-quarters (73%) of new policies. In addition, the vast majority (96%) of new Life+LTC policies issued did not include a benefit increase option that bumped up available benefits to keep pace with inflationary growth of costs. By comparison, the Association’s study of traditional individual long-term care insurance policy sales, found that in 2011 some 96 percent included a growth option.

The complete findings will be published in the Association’s 2012 Long-Term Care Insurance Sourcebook. Founded in 1998, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance is the national trade organization established to educate both consumers and financial professionals about the importance of long-term care planning.