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Roy Smith: Longterm care insurance

03/01/2011 @ 3:12pm

A thread on the “Farm Business” talk page concerned long term care insurance and whether it was appropriate for farmers. I will share my experience on the subject from a farmer’s standpoint. Sharon and I each had a parent that had Alzheimer’s and spent time in a nursing home. We have always felt that the odds of one of us getting the condition were pretty high and that there was some probability of both getting it. As a result we spent considerable time studying the subject before we put our money on the line for insurance. 

We began the quest for information in the late 1990’s. Sharon turned 60 in 1999. We were glad we started gathering information when we did because it took a lot longer than we anticipated. In the end, it took about a year to adequately understand the subject. 

One of the first things we discovered is that a lot of insurance agents did not know much more than we did.  The first obstacle we had to overcome was finding someone who really knew the subject. It was frustrating to start asking questions, only to find out that we knew more about it than the person we were asking. 

Another thing we quickly discovered is that you cannot afford to cover everything you might want. You need to decide what the biggest risks are and be sure those are covered. We knew that we would be able to easily pay for a short stay in a nursing home with our liquid assets. Therefore we wanted a policy with a long exclusionary period. This is like the deductable on your property insurance. We both have social security which would be available to pay the cost of care. So, that amount could be subtracted from our coverage. In our cases, that amounts to roughly $50 per day or $1500 per month. Therefore, we looked for a policy that would pay $80 per day. That was roughly the nursing home cost at the time we started the policy. 

We figured that the biggest risk was in needing care for a very long time. Therefore, we wanted the escalator clause that increased the coverage by five percent per year. With the policy in force for 12 years the coverage is now $143 per day. This, plus the social security payment, would still cover the cost of care.

A concern of those who posted on the talk page was whether the nursing home of the individual’s choosing would be covered by the policy. We requested and got a statement from the insurance company that they would cover the cost of care in the specific facility that we will use when the time comes. 

Finally, we decided to buy our insurance from an agent in a small town bank whose own mother-in-law was collecting on her long term care policy at the time. He knew the business from personal experience. We found that the premium costs go up sharply when you reach 60 years of age. Therefore we started the policy shortly before Sharon reached that milestone.  There was a ten percent discount for both partners to buy the insurance and another ten percent discount for being in good health. 

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