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Statistics show that nearly three-quarters of senior citizens in America today will need some form of long-term care before they die, and the cost of this care via long-term care insurance has spiraled steadily upward every year with no end in sight. As a financial advisor, your ability to provide competent advice to your clients in this area can play a key role in the success of your business. In most cases, your recommendations should be based upon the client’s asset base, probability of need and projected longevity. It is also important to stay abreast of the latest trends in these policies because the market itself is changing rapidly in response to shifts in the eldercare industry.
Getting clients to understand the need for coverage and their respective options will often take time. Make a point of going over the basic tenets of this type of care and your clients’ probable need for it at some point. Then help them to understand how LTC policies work and the basic elements that they contain, such as elimination periods, minimum and maximum payouts, daily coverage limits, types of care that are included-and excluded, benefit triggers and duration of coverage.
Although health care expenses are likely one of your clients’ primary concerns, many of them may be reluctant to discuss this issue with you without some prodding. Annual client checkup meetings can be an excellent place to introduce this idea for those with inadequate coverage. The best way to approach this may be to start by asking general questions about the client’s health and life expectancy. Getting them to talk about their past family medical history can often give you a good idea of the type and amount of coverage that may be needed.
Make sure that married clients understand each other’s wants and needs in this area as well; many people may be happy to let their spouse care for him or her, while others would prefer professional care that affords his or her partner greater freedom and less responsibility. But these issues need to be mapped out well in advance of the time of care in order to avoid unpleasant surprises that can damage more than your clients’ financial situations.
Although paying for long-term care is consistently listed as one of the top financial priorities for senior citizens in recent polls and studies, paying for insurance premiums that may never be recovered if care is not required is one of the biggest reasons that clients eschew this type of protection. Most LTC experts say that paying for protection that covers every possible scenario is not cost-effective in most cases, and one of the first steps in determining the amount of coverage that is needed should be a careful assessment of the client’s current health and family history.
If several short-term stays (such as 90 days or less) in a managed-care facility show up in someone’s family history, then that person may be wiser to buy a policy with no elimination period and a shorter benefit term. Those with predecessors who went in for much longer stays may be better off buying a policy with a much longer elimination period, such as one year, and has more comprehensive protection for up to five years. Clients who are at risk for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia tend to be appropriate candidates for the latter type of coverage.
Removing inflationary riders can also drastically reduce the cost of protection in many cases, although the client’s age and the rate of inflation used in the rider should be considered before doing this. The same level of protection will also often not be needed for both spouses, and healthier clients may be wise to opt for coverage that solely covers in-home care with drastically reduced premiums. Spousal sharing riders can also be a happy medium for clients who could afford to pay for coverage for one but not both of them.
Many term and universal life insurance policies also now offer accelerated benefit riders that pay a portion of the death benefit up front to clients who need long-term care or become otherwise disabled or are diagnosed with a critical illness such as cancer or lupus. This alternative is becoming increasingly popular because it typically guarantees the policy holder that either they or their beneficiaries will get paid a benefit regardless of what happens.
Group LTC policies are available from some employers at a reduced cost, and these can also be good alternatives in some cases. However, these policies are usually only worth looking at as long as they are portable and will continue to provide coverage after the employee has left the company.
Clients who choose not to carry LTC coverage are effectively choosing to self-insure, regardless of whether they can afford it or not. Those who can afford coverage but not the actual cost of care may need to see hard results on paper in order to be persuaded to take action. A comprehensive financial plan can be a useful tool here, as it can serve as proof that you showed them the possible consequences of failing to carry appropriate coverage. It can also clear away any ambiguity in the client’s mind about the real impact of having to pay for this care out of pocket.
The need for long-term care has become an inescapable issue for today’s retirees, and paying for coverage in any form can be a daunting task in many cases. But this is coverage that many clients cannot afford not to have, and choosing the right amount and type of protection can require a close assessment of the client’s health and circumstances as well as their finances. For more information on long-term care planning, visit the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance at www.aaltci.org.