Most Americans don’t plan for long-term care

The need for long-term care and how to pay for it often is overlooked when planning for retirement.

While not for everyone, most middle-income consumers can benefit from owning a long-term care insurance policy, as it offers protection from having to spend down all assets to pay for these expenses.

With nursing home costs averaging more than $70,000 a year, according to the National Institute on Aging, many can’t afford not to include long-term care insurance in the planning process. All too often, though, that’s what happens.

The mistaken belief that Medicare will cover all the expenses is among the many reasons why people avoid thinking about long-term care insurance. Research shows that the cost is often misunderstood, too.

Consumers perceive the cost to be more than double what it actually is, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, or AALTCI.

Others are unaware that there are options that could allow them to choose a plan with lower premium rates.

Adding a deductible can reduce the yearly cost by 20 percent, according to the AALTCI. Discounts for good health can lessen the cost by 10 percent to 20 percent, while discounts for married couples and partners can reduce the cost by as much as 40 percent.

Experts also encourage consumers to consider a policy that includes home health care.

Long-term care rates can vary widely from insurer to insurer, so it’s wise to look at the plans offered by at least two well-established insurers. And early planning can be worthwhile because, in addition to the benefit levels you choose, your long-term care insurance premium will be based on your age and your health.