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Long-term care insurance: 12 questions to ask

Those who aren't getting older can skip this story.

Still with us? Good. You are getting older, and at some point, your body will break down. Here are some scary statistics: Studies indicate that as many as 40 percent of Americans over 65 will spend time in a long-term care facility, that more than 70 percent over 65 will use some form of home health care, and that a year in a nursing home can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 or more today, with costs likely to more than quadruple 30 years from now.

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Considering these factors, long-term care insurance may be the most important purchase you ever make.

Unfortunately, long-term care insurance policies are complex, and seemingly minor details can make a tremendous difference in the level of care you eventually receive. You'll need to sample a variety of policies, ask lots of questions and have your broker or agent explain the intricacies of the policy in detail because what may seem minor now could mean the difference between being covered or not at a crucial time.

The following 12 questions will help unravel the complexities and gather the information hou need in shopping for a long-term care policy, including whether you should be shopping for one at all.

Why buy long-term care insurance?
There are many elderly people who, due to some physical or cognitive disease, are unable to care for themselves. Long-term care insurance could potentially cover nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day care, in-home care and other functions that help us get through everyday life. It is NOT medical insurance; it is simply for everyday life functions and living.

It is also not, however, just for the elderly. If a person in his 30s were to purchase long-term care insurance, and soon after become paralyzed in an accident, or be diagnosed with a degenerative disease, he could then be covered for life as far as functioning care -- depending on the individual policy.

What happens if I get sick and don't have this insurance?
If a person is in need of, let's say, a nursing home, and is without insurance, the home would need to be paid for out of the person's assets. Government assistance would usually not kick in until not only that person's assets were virtually depleted, but the assets of their spouse as well, if that assistance were available at all. Therefore, anyone with assets to protect may want to consider this insurance.

At what age should long-term care insurance be purchased?
It is sometimes advised that people 60 and over should be looking at this insurance. However, there are a few reasons to reconsider this advice, and instead think about purchasing it as early as possible.

Next: "Avoid a captive agent"
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