Buying long-term care coverage in your 60s? 5 tips to compare policy options

Comparing long-term care insurance policies is important — but you need to know how to do it the right way.

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Long-term care is costly and can easily eat into your budget as you age. In fact, according to 2023 data, even a shared room in a nursing home facility would cost you nearly $9,000 per month. And a traditional Medicare policy is, unfortunately, no help with these costs. A long-term care insurance policy is, though.

And while buying this type of coverage early is the best way to protect yourself, you may still want to purchase long-term care insurance well into your 60s. If this is the case, you’ll need to compare policies and insurers carefully, as options (and premiums) can vary widely as you age. 

Start comparing your top long-term care policies online now.

Buying long-term care coverage in your 60s? 5 tips to compare policy options

Here’s how you can compare long-term care insurance policies successfully:

Understand your health risks

The first thing you’ll want to think about is your health — or any conditions that could impact your options or premiums.

“Many people 60 and over have a higher likelihood of being declined coverage due to complicated health conditions,” says Brian Gordon, a long-term care advisor and president at Gordon Associates. “The first step at any age is to be prescreened from a health standpoint.”

An insurance broker can help you with prescreening. “It helps us set realistic underwriting expectations,” Gordon says.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re honest with your agent about your health and medical history.

“Many people start developing all sorts of health issues in their 60s and you should always be very open with the agent about all medical issues,” says Mark Baron, owner of Baron Long Term Care Insurance. “If you can avoid getting declined by having your health issues out in the open, you will have more options later. It will also help the agent steer you to the correct plan that’s suitable for you.”

Find out what your best long-term care coverage options are now.

Read the fine print

Premiums are one thing to look at, but you should also consider the fine print of each policy you’re eyeing. First, understand the coverage details.

“Does the policy include in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care?” asks Shinobu Hindert, a certified financial planner and author of Investing Is Your Superpower. “It’s important to understand what you’re buying so make sure you’re clear on the benefit triggers.”

You should also look at the benefit amounts, how long the benefits last and added features, like inflation protection, which ensures your policy “keeps pace with rising care costs,” Hindert says. 

Look at the elimination period

Long-term care insurance policies usually come with elimination periods — essentially waiting periods until your benefits can kick in. It’s important to think about these when weighing policies, as you may need to cover any gaps out of pocket.

“Longer elimination periods usually result in lower premiums,” Hindert says. “But you should be prepared to cover care costs out-of-pocket during this period.”

You also might consider a short-term care policy to cover the gap. Talk to an insurance agent to see if this is the right move for you.

Research the insurer

Look into each insurance company you consider, too. Since you may not use your benefits for a few years (or even decades) down the line, you need to know the insurers will still be around and solvent enough to cover your claims.

“Do your due diligence on the financial stability of the insurer by looking at ratings from agencies such as A.M. Best, Moody’s, or Standard & Poor’s to ensure they can pay out future claims,” Hindert says. 

You can also look up customer reviews, and check their rating with the Better Business Bureau.

“I prefer highly rated carriers that have multiple insurance product lines and therefore has a well-rounded business that could weather the occasional spike in long-term care claims,” says Joseph Gaj, director of insurance at Wealth Enhancement Group.

Get help

Asking for a professional’s help is always smart when it comes to health and retirement planning. An insurance agent can help point you toward the right products for your budget and goals, and they can also assist with comparing premiums, insurance companies, and coverage options.

“It’s imperative that the agent looks at more than one plan to compare, unless you have health issues that drives the decision towards one particular plan that may be the only one that would consider you,” Baron says. “Some plans are priced much better for younger people and other plans are priced better for older folks.” 

You can also look at alternatives to long-term care policies if you can’t qualify — things like annuities, certain retirement accounts, or a health savings account. A financial pro can guide you toward the best solution for your specific scenario. 

This post was originally published on CBS News

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