Too often, people planning their estates focus on tax and asset-protection issues and overlook long-term health care needs. But the high cost of long-term care (LTC) can quickly devour resources you need to maintain your lifestyle during retirement and provide for your children or other heirs after your death. Here are a few insurance options available to help cover the costs of long-term care.
An LTC insurance policy supplements your traditional health insurance by covering services that assist you or a loved one with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs). Generally, ADLs include eating, bathing, dressing and transferring (in and out of bed, for example).
LTC coverage is relatively expensive, but it may be possible to reduce the cost by purchasing a tax-qualified policy. Generally, benefits paid in accordance with an LTC policy are tax-free. In addition, if a policy is tax-qualified, your premiums may be deductible (as medical expenses) up to a specified limit.
To qualify, a policy must:
- Be guaranteed renewable and noncancelable regardless of health,
- Not delay coverage of pre-existing conditions more than six months,
- Not condition eligibility on prior hospitalization,
- Not exclude coverage based on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or similar conditions or illnesses, and
- Require a physician’s certification that you’re either unable to perform at least two of six ADLs or you have a severe cognitive impairment, which has lasted or is expected to last at least 90 days.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of tax-qualified policies. The primary advantage is the premium deduction. But keep in mind that medical expenses are deductible only if you itemize and only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Thus, some people may not have enough medical expenses to benefit from this advantage. Also weigh any potential tax benefits against the advantages of nonqualified policies, which may have less stringent eligibility requirements.
Also known as “asset-based” policies, hybrid policies combine LTC benefits with whole life insurance or annuity benefits. These policies have several advantages over standalone LTC policies. For example, their health-based underwriting requirements typically are less stringent, and their premiums are usually guaranteed — that is, they won’t increase over time.
Most important, LTC benefits, which are tax-free, are funded from the death benefit or annuity value. So, if you never need to use the LTC benefits, those amounts are preserved for your beneficiaries.
Employer-provided group LTC insurance plans offer significant advantages over individual policies, including discounted premiums and “guaranteed issue” coverage, which covers eligible employees (and, in some cases, their spouse and dependents) regardless of their health status. Group plans aren’t subject to nondiscrimination rules, so a business can offer employer-paid coverage to a select group of employees.
Employer plans also offer tax advantages. Generally, C corporations that pay LTC premiums for employees can deduct the entire amount as a business expense, even if it exceeds the deduction limit for individuals.