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Women need long-term care insurance even if it is pricey

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

My husband and I paid our long-term care insurance this week, and I nearly fainted when I saw the bill. For the two of us -- I'm 59 and he's 64 -- we paid almost $3,500. In my book, that's a lot for a year's worth of insurance -- especially for two people who are on the verge of retirement.

But then I look at my friend who celebrated her 100th birthday last December. There's a woman for whom good retirement planning has been very important. Ardis is fun and funny and already planning her 101st birthday party, but she can't do it by herself. She lives in a pleasant condo with help from two health care providers, one or the other of whom are on the scene most of the time.

Until a year or so ago, Ardis got by with less assistance, but since she was in an automobile accident, she's need more help getting dressed, bathing, etc.

The total annual bill for that kind of assistance in the city where Ardis lives is close to $100,000. If Ardis chose a nice nursing home instead, the bill would be about the same. But she would rather be independent and in her own home -- just like most of us would.

So, when you look at it that way, my long-term care invoice doesn't seem so outrageous. I realize that it's probably a small price to pay for good help when I need it.

Phyllis Shelton, president of LTC Consultants in Nashville, Tenn., a company that provides long-term care consulting and education, points out that since the burden of family caregiving almost always falls on women, long-term care -- or lack of it -- can have a big impact on retirement finances. If part of couple's retirement plan relies on a younger wife continuing to work, the illness of the older husband can be a significant financial burden. Long-term care insurance that replaces her income or allows her to hire someone else to help with the caregiving so she can work can be especially important in that circumstance.

Employers have a major stake in this, too, Shelton says. Women make up about half of the workforce in the U.S. But more than two-thirds of the people providing long-term care at home are women. If their time is filled by caring for a spouse or a parent, then they aren't going to be on the job. So it behooves employers to offer access to affordable long-term care insurance, Shelton says.

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Jesse Slome
July 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Actually just the opposite is true. Long-term care insurance is a bargain for women. Here is a little known fact: women (single) pay the same for this insurance as men even though they are far more likely to use the coverage. It would be like bad drivers paying the same as good drivers. Nearly two-thirds of all claims are paid to women. So, "more risk ... more benefits received ... same cost." Something women -- especially single women -- need to be aware of.

Jesse Slome
Executive Director
American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance