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Long-term care insurance: 12 questions to ask
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How long will the policy pay out once it's triggered?
The best is an unlimited payout, but there are policies that cover smaller increments of time, such as four years or six years. You'll need to weigh what you can afford against how much you're willing to gamble you'll need. Obviously, the longer coverage is provided, the better.

What triggers the policy?
Different policies dictate different reasons for the policy to kick in, such as cognitive impairment, failure of ability to perform daily activities, and medical impairment. But not all policies allow for all reasons, and some policies even refuse to consider medical necessity as a trigger. Make sure you understand the policy's trigger, and try to find one that will include medical necessity.
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Also, certain policies require you to be hospitalized before any nursing home or home health care benefits kick in. Try to find a policy without this restriction.

How much will it pay out every day?
Some policies may cover expenses totaling more than $50 or $75 per day, and others may cover $200 and up. All are different. Make sure you fully understand the payout policy on any coverage you're considering. In doing so, take into account the difference in potential nursing home costs where you are. For example, the cost of a nursing home in New York may run $300 to $400 per day, while a home in the Midwest may be less than $100.

What is the deductible?
This part gets especially complex. These policies can measure the deductible not in dollars, but in days. A policy's deductible may run 30 days, 60 or 120. And, the length may mean different things, depending on the policy's wording. The days may be consecutive, or not. The deductible that's right for you will depend on your ability to cover your own costs until the policy kicks in.

Be sure you fully understand the implications of the deductible before signing on, and weigh it against your projected assets at age 70 or 80. This is one topic you should definitely discuss with your financial adviser.

Does the policy have inflation protection?
Many policies include a clause that increases your benefit with inflation, without raising your premium. Be sure to ask about it.

Does your policy allow for shared care?
Some policies allow you to link your policy with your spouse's, so that if your coverage runs out, you can draw on your spouse's coverage. Discuss with your spouse if this is something you want to have.

Make sure you fully understand every aspect of a policy before signing on, as any detail could make a big difference come redemption time.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Updated: July 29, 2003
 
 
More stories by Larry Getlen
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