About 70 percent of elderly people in the United States need long term health care services at some point, but many do not have the insurance coverage or a full understanding of what such health care needs entail. Long term care generally is for medical or mental conditions that make it difficult or impossible for people to take care of themselves. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are common places to obtain the health services, but many people simply cannot afford the costs of being cared for in such places.
The care also can be obtained in the home, which is a common source for many people. But in-home care generally requires a family member or visiting medical professional to provide the services and medical treatments needed to keep patients as healthy as possible. Such services might include ensuring proper medications are administered as scheduled, helping with physical therapy and monitoring patients to keep track of their mental and health status.
Mental disabilities, such as suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other afflictions that make it impossible for the patient to conduct even normal daily routines, are among common reasons for long term care although they still might maintain their general intelligence and other mental faculties. But the failure to remember things from moment to moment or the onset of full-on dementia can render even otherwise healthy individuals incapable of caring for themselves.
Other common reasons for needing such care are suffering from physical ailments that make it difficult or impossible for someone to get around and take care of daily needs. A broken hip, extreme arthritis or other physical problems could make it impossible for someone to properly care for himself or herself despite having the mental faculties to otherwise do what is necessary to continue living a healthy and happy life.
While the elderly are most at risk for needing extended care services, younger people also might find themselves needing such health care services. A bad auto accident, a head injury or the onset of a debilitating illness could make even a young adult in need of extended health care, which could last several decades. Fortunately, such incidents usually occur in situations where auto insurance or workers compensation insurance plans will cover most if not all of the costs.
But when the majority of people are in need of extended health care during their elderly years, long term care insurance is an important element to reducing the potential financial risk of suffering an injury or having a cognitive disorder rendering them unable to fully care for themselves. The average annual cost of insurance coverage for such services is much less the younger the policyholder is at the time the insurance plan is underwritten.
A policy for someone at 50 years of age will cost about $900 per year for more than $800,000 in benefits. But the cost rises and the benefits drop by more than half the nearer someone is to retirement age. A 65-year-old can expect an annual cost of about $1,700 for extended health care coverage if buying a new policy while a person who is 75 years of age can plan on spending nearly $6,000 per year for what might be no more than $300,000 in potential benefits.
Medicare will pay some long term care costs but will not cover more than 100 days of nursing home care per year. That leaves a great deal of potential cost or need uncovered if suffering a serious injury or other health problem requiring care over the long run.