Consumer Watch: Long-term Care Insurance

At some point during the golden years, around half of all Americans will need some type of long term care.

But it doesn't come cheap. Here in Kentucky, it costs about $40,000 a year to stay in a nursing home. The question is, will you be able to afford it if you need it?

Careful planning can help take care of your expenses when you are no longer able to, that's why long-term care insurance is a must have for many middle-aged adults and seniors. But before you buy, you need to do your homework.

Below, we've listed some of the most important things you need to consider as you look into long-term care insurance. (tips courtesy of the Better Business Bureau)

* SHOP AROUND: Check with several companies and agents before you buy. Be sure to compare benefits, the limitations of coverage, the exclusions and the premiums. Policies that provide the same coverage may not necessarily have the same premium.

* TAKE YOUR TIME: Never let anyone pressure or scare you into making a quick decision. Don't buy a policy the first time an agent comes calling. Ask the agent to give you an outline of coverage summarizing the policy benefits. Compare outlines of coverage from several policies.

* DON'T BE MIS-LED BY ADVERTISING: Don't be influenced by the endorsements of celebrities. Most of these people are actors who are paid to advertise-- not insurance experts.

* BE WARY OF CARDS RECEIVED IN THE MAIL THAT LOOK AS IF THEY WERE SENT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: They may actually have been sent by insurance companies trying to find potential buyers. Be skeptical if you are asked questions over the phone about Medicare or your insurance.

* IT IS RARELY NECESSARY TO BUY MORE THAN ONE POLICY: One good policy is enough.

* DON'T BE MIS-LED BY THOSE WHO SAY YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY IS NOT IMPORTANT: Disclosing your medical history is very important. Make sure you fill out the application completely and accurately. If an agent fills out the application for you, don't sign it until you have read it and made sure it is correct. If information about the state of your health is wrong, the company may refuse to pay your claims and can cancel your policy, even though it is guaranteed renewable. Even if you are denied coverage with one company because of your health, don't give up. Try another company.

* NEVER PAY AN AGENT IN CASH: Write a check and make it payable to the company.

* IF YOU DON'T RECEIVE YOUR POLICY WITHIN 45-65 DAYS, CONTACT THE COMPANY: When you receive your policy, keep it in a convenient place where you can find it and tell a trusted friend or relative where it is.

* UPON RECEIPT, READ THE POLICY AGAIN AND MAKE SURE IT PROVIDES THE COVERAGE YOU PURCHASED: Reread the application you signed. It becomes part of the policy. If it's not correct, notify the insurance company right away.

* UNDERSTAND THE POLICIES: Make sure you understand what the policies cover and what they do not. If you have questions, ask your agent before you buy.

For more information on long-term care insurance, log on to: http://doi.ppr.ky.gov/kentucky/

Or, call 1-800-595-6053 for a free Consumer Guide.


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