What Is A Long Term Care Rider?
A Long-Term Care (or LTC) rider is an optional add-on to a life insurance policy that will provide financial benefits to the insured in the event they require hands-on daily care when unable to provide it for themselves. In many cases, this comes as a lump sum payment per month for a certain period and MAY NOT account for inflation.
Knowing something and appreciating the severity of a challenging situation are two different things. That’s especially true when dealing with complicated questions of estate and long term care planning. For instance, you likely know that the typical nursing home stay runs about 2.5 years and that nursing home care costs range between $150 and $235 a day for a shared room or a staggering $253 a day for a private room. You know that funding over $90,000 of care per year can strain budgets and bust retirement accounts, but you may not know how to even start addressing these challenges.
Anyone with elderly parents or loved ones has likely thought about how they will pay for nursing home care should that time come. This fear stems from a common situation that plays out countless times around America. A diligent, financially conservative couple who saved for retirement over the course of their working lives had a dignified retirement. Changes in one spouse’s health required entry into a long term care facility or the use of home health aids.
After months of long term care, the couple’s retirement nest egg is left cracked and scrambled and the independent spouse is left wondering how they will provide long term care for themselves. They may find that their life insurance plans were drawn down to pay for long term care or that their conservative cash savings no longer exist thanks to an atypically long stint in a nursing home. If we’re to believe actuarial data, wives can expect to outlive their husbands 80% of the time. That fact alone should pique the interest of at least half of this article’s readership. If you’re still planning and saving for retirement, it’s critically important that you start questioning how you’re going to provide for your long term care expenses while protecting your spouse’s ability to survive once you’ve passed. With cuts to Medicaid and other senior care government programs under Congressional review, and upwards of 70% of Americans needing some form of long term care during their lifetime, you should be taking time to review your plan to provide for yourself and your spouse in your old age.
Ways To Avoid That Outcome
The earlier you address the significant cost of providing long term care for your loved ones or yourself, the better off you’ll be when the time comes to foot the bill. Like most of life’s challenges, the task of providing financial support to a loved one in a long term care facility or ensuring that you can pay for a dignified level of treatment is one that is best addressed as early as possible. While the least expensive way to address a risk is typically to self-insure against that risk, socking away hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of savings earmarked for retirement isn’t a realistic option for the majority of retirees. If self-insuring is out of the question, you should seriously consider adding a long term care rider to an existing or new life insurance policy.
Long term care riders are increasingly being demanded by worried spouses and diligent financial planners who recognize that the cost of nursing home care is something that needs to be addressed early on in the retirement planning process. Long term care riders are a preferred way for people with permanent insurance to fund nursing home stays because the plans disburse tax-free money to pay for nursing home care once qualification criteria is satisfied.
The variability of long term insurance riders is another reason why they are so popular amongst financial planners. Premiums, coverage levels, coverage for in home care aids, and other features allow these riders to be individually tailored to satisfy your family’s unique needs. If you’re interested in learning more about the long term rider options that are available, speaking to an independent insurance broker is a great place to start.
Money That Was Wasted Away
People don’t like the feeling that money they spent was wasted. It’s why so many people don’t like leasing cars, renting houses, or buying term life insurance. At the end of the lease or term insurance policy, you’re left with nothing to show for those payments you’ve made over the past several years or decades. If you’re interested in an insurance plan that builds up cash value and allows you to borrow directly against the plan in a heavily tax advantaged way to support your standard of living in retirement or fund a child’s education, a whole life or cash value life insurance plan is something to consider.
Whole life plans are growing in popularity once again because they are customizable and can feature rider enhancements to provide supplemental insurance coverage to protect against a number of life’s challenges. These riders make retirement planning far easier by introducing predictability into the typically unpredictable area of long term insurance costs. Riders will pay for a covered person’s nursing home stay for a certain period of time, up to a certain amount of money, or will pay for nursing home care until that person passes.
Because long term care riders are attached to cash value life insurance, the money used to purchase the rider does not simply disappear at the time of the covered party’s passing. If a covered person’s long term insurance rider was not completely used to fund their nursing home care, the designated beneficiaries will receive either the guaranteed minimum death benefit or the death benefit of the plan and the unused portion of the long term care rider’s value. This money is paid out automatically and is not subject to probate fees or estate taxes.
Long Term Care Riders And Medicaid Planning
Long term care riders and cash value life insurance policies have another major advantage over term policies for people who have modest retirement savings. If you or a loved one is on the verge of qualifying for Medicaid coverage, it may make sense to purchase a single fee whole life policy with a long term care rider. When coupled with other eligible transfers and purchases, a senior citizen can secure supplemental Medicaid coverage at no cost while maintaining a high standard of living. This approach to Medicaid planning is tried and tested and works nationwide. Speaking to an estate planning and elder law attorney along with your independent insurance broker to craft a plan that heightens benefits eligibility and protects your estate from Medicaid claw-backs is a great way to leave a legacy to your loved ones.
Don’t Want To Have To Argue For Money?
If you’ve dealt with an insurance policy provider over coverage issues, it’s possible that the experience left you with a bad taste in your moth. The advantage to long term care riders is that the coverage they offer is typically cut-and-
dry. Most policies establish certain conditions that trigger the payment of benefits. A typical long term care policy will start paying for long term care once you are deemed to be incapable of performing two or three “activities of daily living” (ADLs). These activities include being able to perform basic tasks safely, like dressing yourself or walking. Payments can also be triggered when certain disorders or conditions are diagnosed.
There are other ways to access the cash value of these plans without proving impairment of ADLs. Most commonly, these plans will authorize fund withdraws whenever you are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses, terminal diseases, qualify for in home or residential skilled nursing treatment, or are in a lengthy recovery process from a surgery or injury.
What Alternatives To Long Term Care Riders Are Available?
Alternatives to long term care riders attached to cash value life insurance plans are available and should be considered. If you are not going to use a long term care rider that is attached to a cash value life insurance, you’re likely going to use one of the three other major ways to cover long term care costs.
Independent Long Term Care Insurance
Once extremely popular with aging adults, the policies promised to cover the ever increasing costs of nursing home care in exchange for a monthly premium payment. The policies resemble term life insurance products in many respects. The plans do not build cash value and never feature an investment component so you will need to pay premiums as long as the plans are in place. These long term care insurance policies also can be incredibly expensive, confusing, and hard to get unless you are in top physical condition. If the plan’s coverage lapses for any reason, like nonpayment of a premium, all of the premium payments are lost and the insured person is left with nothing.
The biggest disadvantage associated with independent long term care insurance policies is found in the unpredictable nature of premium hikes. Unlike level-term life insurance, monthly premiums can and often do change dramatically. The drawbacks of these policies tend to outweigh the advantages and most people are better served considering an alternative approach.
Annuity and Life Insurance Bundles
The second approach to covering long term care costs is to use a life insurance and annuity bundle. Coupling life insurance policies with fixed or “life” annuities is an effective way to ensure that long term care expenses are covered in a way that does not draw down the inheritance of your loved ones.
Annuities operate as contracts that bind an insurance company to make you steady payments in exchange for a lump sum payment or a series of payments you’ve made to them over time. These plans are growing in popularity because the life insurance and annuity bundle allows you to address retirement planning concerns and long term care funding in a streamlined product.
The tax advantages associated with both annuities and cash value life insurance is particularly attractive to high net worth individuals who are concerned about estate taxes and probate fees. Couples with more modest means should still consider this strategy because both annuities and life insurance products do not typically interfere with Medicaid eligibility.
Accelerated Death Benefit Riders
Accelerated death benefit riders are attached to whole life or universal insurance products. The riders are generally offered free of charge by insurance companies and permit insured parties to fund extended nursing home or residential skilled nursing by allowing funds to be drawn away from the cash value of the plan to pay for medical expenses. Because these withdraws diminish the cash value of the insurance policy, beneficiaries can expect to see smaller payouts and lower tax advantaged transfers at the time of your death.
Speak to your insurance broker if you are seriously considering using an accelerated death benefit rider and consider that a supplemental insurance product may be necessary to maintain your loved one’s standard of living with one of these plans.
Long term care insurance riders offer an attractive, low cost way to fund an extended stay in a nursing home without disturbing Medicaid eligibility, the standard of living your spouse enjoys, or the inheritance you’d like to leave behind to your loved ones. While alternatives to long term care riders exist, like long term care insurance, they tend to be overly complicated and expensive. Anyone beginning to plan for retirement or in the process of reassessing their retirement plans ought to give serious thought to a long term care insurance policy rider attached to a whole life plan.