coverage that best suits your needs. We’ve listed several steps below to help you establish coverage on your own or through your employer.
Be frank, be thorough. MetLife agent Lloyd Bowen recommends that you make a frank assessment of what financial resources your family would be able to provide in a situation where long-term care was needed. Conduct the same assessment if you are taking out a policy for a parent or grandparent. Bowen says it is important to be honest and list all limitations.
Next, consider where you would like to recover from your disability. Your preference might be to stay at home and be as independent as possible. Or you might choose an assisted living community, where you can remain on your own but still be under the care of a professional staff. AARP’s Kassner suggests including a number of contingencies in your plan in case you need more monitoring or care than you originally planned.
Consider a policy sooner rather than later. The sooner you sign up, the smaller the amount you’ll have to pay each month. Insurers have age limits for these types of policies. For example, you can open up a long-term care insurance policy with MetLife until the age of 84. And while some policy makers will allow you in later, many limit the benefits they pay out and take a smaller percentage of applicants after age 79.
Research the company and the agent. Bonnie Burns, a training and policy specialist with California Health Advocates in Santa Cruz, California, says the company issuing/selling the policy is as important as the policy you finally sign. Given the financial troubles some carriers have had, she suggests sticking to firms with a solid track record in the business. According to AHIP, some of the larger insurance companies that issue long-term care insurance policies include Northwestern Mutual, New York Life, Prudential, MassMutual, State Farm, and MetLife. In 2004, 104 companies sold long-term care insurance, down from 120 companies in 2001. But just 13 of those companies sold 80% of all individual policies.
Burns says that consulting ratings agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch are a good way to determine the financial health of your insurer. Opt for a carrier with the highest grade.
Your state’s departments of insurance and aging can also shed light on the reasons behind any rate hikes an insurer has implemented in the past few years.
Don’t short-change your coverage. Before you rush out to get a policy, AARP’s Kassner says you need to establish a basic financial safety net. “If you’re in your 50s and you haven’t started saving for retirement first, you should,” she says. “You need to have health, disability, and finally life insurance in place before you establish long-term care insurance, particularly if you have dependents.” MetLife’s Bowen also cautions, “People need to realize that taking out a policy should be more need-driven and less cost-driven; you don’t want to [not get enough coverage], but at the same time you shouldn’t end up