The phrase "long term care" refers to the services that a person with a chronic illness or disability (typically due to age) may need on a daily basis over an extended period of time. It's designed to help the person perform everyday activities that they may not be able to do on their own anymore.
Long term care is not an unusual subject for millennials. In fact, a study conducted by AARP reported that of the current estimated 40 million caregivers in the US, 1 in 4 are millennials. Maybe this is why more and more are expressing their concerns over the future of long term care.
The six common everyday activities addressed by long term care include the independent ability to perform the following tasks:
- Getting Dressed
- Walking or transferring
Long term care insurance policies are designed to cover the costs of the expenses that occur from long term care needs. It is not limited to just medical expenses. In most instances, the benefits are triggered by the inability to perform at least two to three of the everyday activities. Once the benefits kick in, they can cover the following:
- Nursing homes
- Assisted living
- Adult daycare services
- Home care (grooming, bathing, cleaning)
- Home modification (Ramps, grab bars)
There are a slew of options and ways to customize long term care policies, so the cost depends on the age at which you take the policy out, your current health, the length of time you want your coverage to last, the elimination period (number of days you choose to be disabled before benefits kick in) so there is much you should consider when choosing your distinct policy's terms. Before purchasing any policy, here are some things to consider:
- How much will I need? Sadly, we aren't fortune tellers, so it's hard to say whether or not you will need a policy that will cover you for a longer or shorter duration of time, but it may be smart to look into your family health history if you can.
- How do you think you will receive possible long term care? If you don't plan on ever having children, long term care insurance may be vital for you. On the other hand, someone who hopes that their children will care for them may not want to purchase as much coverage if they believe they will get care from a family member.
- How much money do you plan on having later in life? Again, another silly sounding question. We all want to be millionaires in retirement. Depending on what type of career you hold, or plan on having, you may not need long term care if you plan on being in the pool of the wealthiest Americans.
Genworth has a great tool you can use to see an estimate of what you would pay for long term care insurance. However, the youngest age available on this handy calculator is forty. This is most likely because most Americans don't purchase long term care insurance before that age, although it is possible to get it beforehand.
Even though long term care insurance premiums are lower the younger you purchase it, it really isn't necessary to purchase much before the age of forty, so buying it too early can unnecessarily cost you more. You also shouldn't wait too long if you do decide to purchase a policy. According to the Genworth premium calculator, the same policy that would cost a forty year old $341 annually would cost a fifty year old $491 and a sixty year old $627!
It's also important to keep in mind that employer health insurance does not cover long term care needs, and Medicare insurance will only cover nursing home stays up to 100 days. That's with a daily copayment of $164.50 after the 20th day. Medicare's home care services are also very limited in what they will cover. According to the study conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center of Public Affairs research, only 1 in 10 of those aged 18-39 are confident that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will maintain their level of benefits when it comes time for them to need these programs.
Just looking at the current national median monthly out of pocket costs of long term care is enough to scare anyone. The current monthly costs are immense, but looking at the forecasted costs in 50 years is enough to make me hope for a quick and young death (kidding, obviously)!
As many millennials have other financial priorities to worry about, you should be financially well off before considering any long term care insurance. Check in with a trusted financial advisor and discuss your needs and options with them first.