7 Ways to Plan for Long-Term Care Costs in Your State

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This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

You might not like the idea. You might try to deny the idea. You might convince yourself that you will be the lucky one to stay healthy until your last day.

However, at least 70% of people over age 65 will require some form of long-term care services and support during their lives, new research shows.

“Unfortunately, the price of long-term care has gone up enormously over the last 20 years,” says Bill Driscoll, a certified financial planner with Plymouth, Massachusetts-based William Driscoll Insurance. “It seems to be slowing down a bit, but it’s a problem. Very few people have the ability to self-insure.”

Driscoll has been in the financial services industry for more than 20 years. He’s been offering long-term care insurance as part of his financial planning practice for 18 years.

“When I first started offering long-term care insurance, I typically offered a policy of $100 a day, thinking that would cover more than 75% of the cost of care,” Driscoll says. “Today, I generally encourage people to look at [policies of] well over $200 a day, and in some cases $300.”

The increasing need for long-term care and assisted-living services — and the rising costs of these services — can put some Americans in a tough position during retirement.

But it may be easier for some people to pay for long-term care than others, depending on where they live.

Each year, Genworth tallies and ranks the costs of long-term care by each state. In general, its report has consistently found costs can vary dramatically nationwide.

Here are the top 10 most expensive places for long-term health care, according to Genworth’s most recent study:

  1. Alaska
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Connecticut
  5. Hawaii
  6. Vermont
  7. New Jersey
  8. New York
  9. Nevada
  10. North Dakota

Given the data, it’s clear that long-term care costs could easily devastate your retirement nest egg if they aren’t accounted for and planned into the budget.

The following are some ways you can plan ahead.

1. Buy a long-term care insurance policy

Long term care on a laptop
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Unlike traditional health insurance, long-term care insurance is designed to cover long-term services and support, including personal and custodial care in a variety of settings including your home, a community organization or another facility, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Buying a long-term care insurance policy is one way to plan for the costs of care down the road.

“I had a really tough case in which I did a retirement analysis for a couple, and they were fine if nothing happened, but if anything happened to their health, it would’ve been tragic,” says Andy Tate, a certified financial planner with Minneapolis-based Tate & Setterlund. “They wouldn’t have been able to retire.”

The couple opted for a long-term care insurance policy to protect themselves from those devastating costs.

“Six months later, [one of them] got diagnosed with brain cancer. That really changed my view on long-term care insurance,” Tate says. “So many insurance agents sell it as a product, but in reality, it should be integrated into the financial plan.”

2. Start planning while you are young and healthy

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For certified financial planner Therese Nicklas, with Braintree, Massachusetts-based U.S. Wealth Management, the product is better defined as “lifestyle insurance.”

“No matter how good the nursing home is, most people do not have a goal of landing in one,” says Nicklas, whose mother is in a nursing home.

“Planning can be a combination of transferring the cost to an insurance policy and savings,” Nicklas says. “Having a well-crafted policy and starting while you are young and healthy — preferably under age 60 — will offer benefits not available through any current means.”

3. Explore other financial products as a better way to cover long-term care costs

Health savings account
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While long-term care insurance may be a great fit for some, others may not be eligible for coverage.

There are a number of pre-existing conditions that make it nearly impossible to qualify for a long-term care insurance policy. Among these are:

  • Alzheimer’s, dementia or memory loss
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Furthermore, the coverage may be prohibitively expensive for many.

Other options include:

  • Health savings accounts: An HSA is similar to a personal savings account, but the money in it is used to pay for health care expenses.
  • Annuity with a long-term care rider: These are single-premium fixed annuities with a long-term care feature designed to cover those expenses.
  • A deferred lifetime annuity: You can estimate the age at which you might need long-term care and purchase a lifetime annuity to begin at that time. If you are sick, then the income can be used to cover your care costs. If you are healthy, then it can serve as bonus income to enhance your quality of life.
  • Life insurance with a long-term care rider: This product is a combination of life insurance and long-term care insurance, with the advantage that benefits will always be paid, whether you need long-term care or not.

Traditional savings accounts also work, but building up enough of a nest egg to cover what could be upward of $200,000 in expenses each year may prove to be difficult.

Whatever the case, it’s important you do your homework first.

“Understanding the benefits and options available will help you get the most out of your purchase,” Nicklas says.

4. Talk to family about your care

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Members of many families expect to rely on one another for long-term care. The reality, though, is that this can be financially and emotionally difficult for the caregiver.

5. Draw down resources until you qualify for Medicaid

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Medicare, the federal health insurance program primarily for seniors, does not cover most long-term care costs. The most common solution for funding long-term care is to use up your resources and then qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poorest citizens.

This can be an acceptable solution, but the quality of care afforded by Medicaid is likely to be less than you desire.

6. Rely on a trusted source

Financial adviser
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If you’re not sure what product would best address your future needs, consult a professional.

“Before buying, get a referral from a trusted resource to someone that specializes in long-term care planning,” Nicklas says.

Start planning for your future by contacting a financial planner today.

7. Calculate your overall retirement plan and assess long-term care budgeting

Couple sitting down to budget
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A good retirement calculator can help you assess your ability to fund long-term care and weigh the pros and cons of your different options.

The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator automatically assesses when you might require care and estimates those costs.

You can also try different scenarios for funding such care. What does your plan look like with an annuity? With long-term care insurance?

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