No matter how diligently you prepare, your estate plan can quickly be derailed if you or a loved one requires long-term home health care or an extended stay at an assisted living facility or nursing home. Long-term care (LTC) expenses aren’t covered by traditional health insurance policies or Medicare. So it’s important to have a plan to finance these costs, either by setting aside some of your savings or purchasing insurance. Let’s take a closer look at three options.
1) LTC insurance
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, toileting, transferring (getting in and out of a bed or chair) and maintaining continence.
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. 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 and that this condition 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 tax 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), so some people may not have enough medical expenses to benefit from this advantage. It’s also important to weigh any potential tax benefits against the advantages of nonqualified policies, which may have less stringent eligibility requirements.
2) Hybrid insurance
Also known as “asset-based” policies, hybrid policies combine LTC benefits with whole life insurance or annuity benefits. These policies have 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.
3) Employer-provided plans
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. And premium payments are excluded from employees’ wages for income and payroll tax purposes.
Think long term
Given the potential magnitude of LTC expenses, the earlier you begin planning, the better. We can help you review your options and analyze the relative benefits and risks.