And yet that's just what I've done. I've applied for a long-term-care insurance policy. I'm giving the company about $2000 a year, every year for the rest of my life. And in return the company promises to cover a portion of the costs of my care when and if I get old and infirm, those that Medicare and medical insurance don't cover -- the cost of a nursing home, or the cost of having an aide come to my house and help me eat and go to the bathroom and clean myself up.
But there's a limit. The company will pay up to a maximum of $5,500 a month; and my total benefit will not exceed $200,000.
Does this sound like a good deal to you?
I got started on this because B has been hounding me about it. She took out a long-term-care policy for herself about ten years ago, after her husband died. At the time she had two teenage boys, and no husband, and she figured she'd have no one to take care of her when she got older.
But also, B likes security, and she sleeps better knowing that when and if she becomes infirm, she has the resources to pay someone to take care of her. Besides, she has a better policy than the one being offered to me. Back then, when long-term-care policies were relatively new and untested, the insurance company agreed to cover all of her costs for up to three years, with no dollar limit, and then she somehow becomes eligible for Medicaid without losing her home and all her money.
B's mother is now 97 years old, and only last year did she move into an assisted-living facility. All the women in B's family have lived a long time, and so B has every expectation that she will survive into her 90s, and probably end up needing some kind of long-term care.
We've been to visit B's mother in her facility twice so far. It's a nice place in Pennsylvania -- relatively new and very clean, and it has a friendly, caring staff. Last time we went, we took her down to the dining room for dinner. There were maybe 30 tables in the room, with a sprinkling of white-haired people bent over the tables. And there the future was laid starkly before me. Elderly women, some in wheelchairs, others with walkers standing beside their chairs. And the men? There were no men.
Or, nearly so. I did a quick count, and came up with 45 women sitting at the tables. And 7 men.
So why do I need long-term-care insurance? Men don't live long enough to use long-term-care facilities.
The insurance salesman told me 70% of people need some kind of long-term care at some point in their lives. He did allow that the percentage is higher for women, lower for men. I'm not sure if I believe him. But it did occur to me why B wants me to get the insurance. The men get sick and become infirm while their wives are still alive and still around to take care of them. The women outlive the men, and there's nobody left to take care of them.
(Of course, this is a generalization. My own dad outlived my mother, and took care of her before she went into a Hospice for the last two weeks of her life.)
Regardless, my long-term-care insurance will let me hire someone to take care of those bathroom and bathing needs, so B doesn't have to do it for me.
So I've applied for the insurance. I checked out a policy being offered through my university. I checked out Genworth, the biggest in the industry. I ended up going with B's company because I get a couple's discount.
At this point, there's no guarantee I'll be accepted for the policy. The company pulls your medical records; and also does its own physical exam, plus a memory test to see if you have any sign of Alzheimer's. I do not know how the insurance company decides whether a person is eligible for a policy. But it sounds as though if you have any serious medical issues, you're out of luck. In other words, if the insurance company thinks you'll need long-term-care anytime soon, it will not take you on.
I'm pretty healthy. I'm assuming I'll be accepted (but you never know). And I will pay the premium, year after year, and I figure, if in 20 years I need some care, the amount I paid in will surely be less than what my maximum benefit is. I also get a 20% tax credit for my payments from the state, and because I file a Schedule C on my Federal taxes, I can take a deduction on my Federal tax as well (although how much longer I'll be working and filing a Schedule C is an open question).
And then I just have to hope that 20 years from now, the insurance company will keep its promise to pay for my care.