When a loved one needs extra help to take care of herself at home or needs to go into a nursing home,
the costs—averaging a total of more than $200,000¹—can be devastating. But the impact on families can be felt far beyond the pocketbook: An estimated 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care to adult family members,² leading to greater incidence of depression and heart disease among caregivers, the majority of whom are women.² Anyone who has seen first-hand the destructive impact of these situations has at least thought about the need to protect their family from the threat of long-term care. But the vast majority haven’t taken action.³ That needs to change. Since change starts with financial literacy and education, let’s review the five most common myths about long-term care.
Myth #1: Medicare and health insurance plans cover long-term care. Private health insurance does not cover long-term care. Medicare only provides extremely limited benefits in a few very specific circumstances. The Medicare.gov website clearly states that Medicare does not cover most long-term care situations. There is one government insurance program that does cover long-term care: Medicaid. But to qualify for Medicaid, one must have income at or below the poverty level⁴ and in most states have less than $2,000 in financial assets.⁵ So unless one plans on being absolutely broke in retirement, they need to have a long-term care solution in place.
Myth #2: Long-term care means that you go into a nursing home. When we think of long-term care, we often think of an old lady wasting away in a nursing home. While a nursing home is certainly an example of a long-term care setting, only about 1/3 of care takes place in nursing homes.⁶ The majority of care takes place in a private residence. So if your stubborn father says, “I’d rather die than go into a nursing home,” your response should be, “fair enough, but how are we going to care for you at home?” When planning for long-term care, you should focus on solutions designed to help keep you in your home for as long as possible. Because no one wants to go into a nursing home.
Myth #3: Long-term care is only for the elderly. Many people are shocked to learn that 37% of Americans receiving long-term care are under the age of 65.⁷ One of the major reasons for this is that long-term care doesn’t only arise from getting old or getting sick. Sometimes long-term care claims stem from accidents or injuries—not illness. So something like a car accident or a traumatic brain injury can suddenly put you into a long-term care situation—even in the prime of your life.
Myth #4: It won’t happen to me. None of us wants to picture ourselves in a long-term care situation. We recoil at the thought of being a burden to our family—whether that burden be financial, physical, or emotional. But the fact is that 70% of us will need long-term care at some point in our lives.⁸ So if you don’t want to be a burden, you need to start planning now.
Myth #5: If it doesn’t happen to me, I will have wasted money on long-term care insurance premiums. If there’s a 70% chance you’ll need long-term care, there’s a 30% chance you won’t. Since there’s a 100% chance you want to retire comfortably, a 100% chance you want your kids to be able to go to college if they want to, and a 100% chance you want to protect your family in the event you die early, you need to prioritize the sure things in life. By the time you allocate money to cover all of the absolute necessities, there may not be any money left over to protect against things that are likely, but not guaranteed, to happen. In response to this conundrum, the financial services industry has evolved to create new products that can allow you to focus on the sure things while also protecting against long-term care. If you need it, these new solutions will cover your long-term care costs. And if you’re one of the lucky 30% of people who won’t need long-term care, all of the benefit for which you paid can go to your family in the form of a large, tax-free, lump-sum payment. Often, you can kill two, three, or four birds with one stone. That’s how money works!
Don’t be a sucker. Refer to page 87 of “HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker” to begin increasing your literacy on this important financial concept. Then contact your financial professional to get started.
– Matt Luckey
¹ “Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2019,” genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html and “Long Term Care Statistics,” LTC Tree, Dec 2018, ltctree.com/long-term-care-statistics/
² “Executive Summary: Caregiving in the US,” AARP, June 2015, https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Executive-Summary-June-4_WEB.pdf
³ “The State of Long-Term Care Insurance: The Market, Challenges and Future Innovations,” National Association of Insurance Commissioners, May 2016, naic.org/documents/ciprcurrent study_160519_ltc_insurance.pdf
⁴ “General Medicaid Requirements,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, https://longtermcare.acl.gov/medicare-medicaid-more/medicaid/medicaid-eligibility/general-medicaid-requirements.html
⁵ “Financial Requirements—Assets,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, https://longtermcare.acl.gov/medicare-medicaid-more/medicaid/medicaid-eligibility/financial-requirements-assets.html
⁶ “Long-Term Care Insurance Facts - Statistics,” The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, 2020, https://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/fast-facts.php
⁷ “The Basics,” LongTermCare.gov, Oct 2017, longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/
⁸ “How Much Care Will You Need?,” Oct 2017, longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/how-much-care-will-you-need.html