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Medical advances have resulted in greater need for nursing home care and assisted living. Most health insurance plans and Medicare severely limit or exclude long-term care. You should consider these costs as you plan for retirement. Here are some questions to ask when considering a separate long-term care insurance policy.

  • What qualifies you for benefits? Some insurers say you must be unable to perform a specific number of the following activities of daily living: eating, walking, getting from bed to a chair, dressing, bathing, using a toilet and remaining continent.
  • What type of care is covered? Does the policy cover nursing home care? What about coverage for assisted living facilities that provide less client care than a nursing home? If you want to stay in your home, will it pay for care provided by visiting nurses and therapists? What about help with food preparation and housecleaning?
  • What will the benefit amount be? Most plans are written to provide a specific dollar benefit per day. The benefit for home care is usually about half the nursing-home benefit. But some policies pay the same for both forms of care. Other plans pay only for your actual expenses.
  • What is the benefit period? It is possible to get a policy with lifetime benefits but this can be very expensive. Other options for coverage are from one to six years. The average nursing home stay is about 2.5 years.
  • Is the benefit adjusted for inflation? If you buy a policy prior to age 60, you face the risk that a fixed daily benefit will not be enough by the time you need it.
  • Is there a waiting period before benefits begin? A 20 to 100 day period is not unusual.