Long-Term Care Insurance 101

By Lorelei Laird

NEW YORK (Learnvest)—These days, people are living longer than ever. A 2011 study by the Society of Actuaries found that, since the 1960s, life expectancy has increased between 1.5 and two years each decade.

It's a good thing that more and more of us can expect to live well into our golden years. Yet, there's a flip side that a lot of us don't like to talk about: How healthy will we be when we're 90?

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 70.5% of Americans are disabled by age 80. Although it's not fun to think about, we don't want to be a tremendous burden on our loved ones if we wind up needing a nursing home or other long-term care.

That's what long-term care insurance is for. And there are reasons you need to know about it well before the wrinkles set in.

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Reasons to Consider Long-Term Care Insurance

In addition to sparing your family the expense of caring for a long-term disability, long-term care insurance can keep you from draining your savings and ending up fully or partially on Medicaid. That's a good thing because, while there's no out-of-pocket cost for Medicaid, the benefits are not extensive enough to cover many things that would affect your quality of life, like a private room at a nursing home. Medicaid benefits have also been cut recently, leading to cutbacks at nursing homes and influencing some providers to stop accepting Medicaid entirely.

With long-term care insurance, you would have more money to draw on, so you could pay for nicer care and wouldn't be limited to providers that accept Medicaid.

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Long-term care insurance can also help protect your assets and your family's inheritance. For example, if, heaven forbid, you developed dementia, you'd likely need round-the-clock care. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found that in 2012, a semi-private room in a nursing home cost $222 a day, or $81,030 per year. A private room cost $248 a day, or $90,520 a year.