Lack of Long-Term Care Insurance Leaves Women Vulnerable

Lack of Long Term Care Insurance Leaves Women Vulnerable

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A recent report conducted by the American Council of Life Insurers finds that women are at a higher risk of needing long term care insurance. The report, entitled Who Will Pay for Our Long Term Care? says women are more likely to be widowed and to live alone compared to men. They are also likely to be the sole caregivers for elderly spouses and other family members. Andrew Melnyk, chief economist and vice president of research at the ACLI, sat down with to shed light on this issue. Why are women at a higher risk of needing long-term care?

Andrew Melnyk: After age 65, women are far more likely than men to need the services of a nursing home, outnumbering men 3 to 1. They also reside in nursing homes longer than men. A typical elderly female resident spends 2.6 years in a nursing home compared to 2.3 years for a typical male.

One reason for this is that women are more likely to be widowed and to live alone than men. On average, they marry at a younger age than men. The median age at first marriage for men is 28.4 years and 26.5 years for women. And women tend to live longer than men. Life expectancy for women is 80.8 years versus 75.6 years for men. For these reasons they are more likely to spend their elder years alone without someone at home to help them with their long-term care needs.

Long-term care has another impact on women’s lives. Women are more likely to be primary providers of informal care for elderly spouses and other family members. According to data from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, women provide between 60 and 75% of family or informal care. Often, they have to cut back on work hours or put careers on hold to care for an elderly relative. On average, how much does LTC insurance cost?

Melnyk: It is difficult to determine an average cost for long-term care insurance because the cost of premiums will vary from person to person depending on:
– Types of services covered (care at home or in a facility).
– Amount of daily, weekly, or monthly benefit.
– Length of waiting (elimination) period for benefits to begin.
– Duration of coverage.

Other factors may affect the price of a policy, such as whether it has inflation protection or a non-forfeiture benefit that provides some level of benefits for a period of time if you cancel your policy.

The age at which you purchase a policy also affects its cost: The younger you are, the lower the cost. A 45-year-old may pay about half what a 60-year-old pays for long-term care insurance.

It’s important to understand the cost of a policy versus the cost of paying for long-term care yourself. For example, a recent study from Life Plans, Inc. for the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) found that a 60-year-old would have to put aside $1,666 a month over 22 years to pay for the same amount of services that would otherwise be covered by long-term care insurance with a monthly premium of $188.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview.