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Long-term care insurance: 12 questions to ask
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Reason one is that, as stated above, a life-changing occurrence can occur at any age. If you are left paralyzed at 30, you could conceivably need life assistance of some sort for the next 60 years. If you're covered, you could be set. If not, it's too late.

But the second and less-obvious reason is that purchasing the policy at a younger age may cost less overall than purchasing it when older, even accounting for inflation. If you're shopping for this policy at a younger age, ask your financial adviser to compare your purchase now with a purchase at 60. You may find the numbers work more favorably if you purchase now.

Where should I shop?
Once you make the decision to purchase long-term care insurance, you need to go shopping. While there are several big insurance companies that offer the insurance, you should also consider working with an independent broker.

Clay Cotton is a former broker, and founded the National Advisory Council for Long Term Care Insurance in late 1996. Ironically, Cotton, now 53, hadn't yet purchased this insurance for himself, but was preparing to in 1997 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, he's ineligible. He did however, purchase a policy for his wife Suzanne, who was soon after diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Cotton is a strong advocate of using independent brokers to purchase insurance (and has a list of them on his Web site), as opposed to agents bound to one company, who he calls "captive" agents.

"Avoid a captive agent," advises Cotton. "They can only sell you their company's party line. If that company doesn't have favorable wording on things like the deductible, that's all that agent has to offer."

Cotton also recommends consumers read the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' "Shopper's Guide to Long Term Care Insurance," a booklet that most insurance agents and brokers who sell that insurance will carry.

How expensive is long term care insurance?
Of course, this number can vary wildly depending on numerous factors, age being the most important. For people in their 30s, the insurance may cost in the $400-per-year range, while that can increase closer to $1,000 per year for those in their 50s and 60s.

What type of setting for coverage does the policy provide?
While the wording may differ per policy, there are three basic categories into which care may fall: home settings, assisted living and skilled nursing facility. The ideal policy will cover all three, since you never know which you'll need. You could wind up with a condition that could be cared for at home, but if your policy covers only nursing home care, you may be out of luck, or maybe prematurely forced into a nursing home.

Conversely, if you're only covered for home and assisted living care, you're out of luck if your condition worsens to the point where you need the full-time skilled care only a home can provide.

Next: Make sure you understand the policy's trigger
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