• James Szumowski - An Article by Carla Lopez

Three Important Things Medicare Recipients Should Know About Paying for Long-Term Care

If you rely on Medicare for the vast majority of your healthcare coverage, you may be surprised to learn just how little it helps when it comes to long-term, custodial care. Most figures say that around 70 percent of those aged 65 and older will need long-term care at some point. With this in mind, planning for it isn’t exactly planning for the inevitable, but it’s fairly close. Brought to you by Millennium Community Solutions, here are some things every person on Medicare should know about financing this common cost.

Long-term care insurance should be bought ASAP

One way that people attempt to finance their eventual long-term care needs is through long-term care insurance. A type of private insurance, long-term care coverage is not perfect for everyone, but for anyone that is at a higher risk of needing care, it could be the way to go.

What puts you in the high-risk pool for needing long-term care? Current health problems and any disabilities, for one. Another factor is poor lifestyle choices (like smoking, obesity, and heavy drinking). Any sort of early signs of cognitive decline should also point toward needing care eventually. Finally, look to your family. If your parents and/or siblings developed a medical condition after the age of 65, you are at a higher risk to do so as well.

You may not think you need to purchase this type of insurance until your 60s, but that would be a mistake. Premiums dramatically increase as you age and your health deteriorates. The best advice is to buy long-term care insurance in your 50s.

Know the best times to enroll in supplemental Medicare

Though we know standard Medicare Parts A & B (and even supplemental insurance) won’t pay for long-term, custodial care, there are plenty of advantages to enrolling in supplemental Medicare coverage (such as Medigap and Medicare Parts C & D). This includes, but is not limited to, dental, vision, nursing help lines, and more. Do your research on enrollment dates. It matters. For example, if you want to be smart about enrolling in Medigap, choose the 6 months that start on the “first day of the month in which you are both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B,” advises the AARP.

You may be able to dip into that life insurance policy early

If you have a qualifying type and appropriately-sized life insurance policy, you may be able to sell it for cash. If you are hit with the immediate need for long-term care and have not made other monetary preparations, this could be your best bet for funding it. Most life insurance policies can be sold to a third party for a cash payout in a move known as a life settlement. First, check the surrender value of your policy. If it is higher than what you can get from a third party, then go that route.

Next, check your policy. If it has at least a $50,000 cover value and is specified as universal, whole term, or convertible term, you can probably get a life settlement. Remember: the cash settlement may be taxed, and you will be forfeiting your entire life insurance payout upon your death. It’s a big decision and often a big risk, but it can be a smart one under certain circumstances.

Other ways to pay for long-term care

There are still other options available for long-term care if you don’t have a life insurance policy that can be cashed out. Many people choose to self-pay for long-term care, but this will involve dipping into your retirement savings. You can also look at whether selling your home would free up the necessary funds. If your home is paid off or worth more than what you have left on your mortgage, selling now could be a great choice. And when all else fails, there are government options for Medicaid assistance, but you’ll need a plan to protect your assets if you apply.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming Medicare will help when and if you need long-term care. Chances are it won’t. And if it does, it won’t for long. Look into long-term care insurance early, expand your current Medicare coverage during the proper windows, and look into life settlements if you need cash quickly. For any given person, the need for long-term care isn’t inevitable, but it’s highly likely.

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Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

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