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Three financial tools for paying for long-term care

And what to do when paying isn’t possible

It is no wonder why people are worried about medical expenses later-in-life. The average cost of nursing home care in Ohio is approximately $76,000 annually and can be much more in some parts of the state. While less expensive, assisted living facilities and homemaker services are beyond the means of many families.

When a loved one begins exhibited moderate memory loss related to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and needs care, many of the legal and financial tools available to help are beyond reach. That is why it is important to plan in advance for paying for long-term care. There are several financial tools to do this:

  • Long-term care insurance: Separate from health insurance, long-term care insurance pays for nursing home care (and potentially, in-home care or assisting living) for those who qualify. However, long-term care can be expensive, and premiums may rise. You also have to be healthy enough to qualify.
  • Fixed index annuity: An annuity pays a set amount annually from a qualifying account. So, for example, you can set up an annuity and roll over funds from your retirement assets to fund it. The annuity can have a rider that allows a greater distribution of funds if you need long-term care. Keep in mind, however, that you must have a qualifying account that you have funded.
  • Life insurance: Some life insurance policies offer the ability to “accelerate” your death benefit if you require long-term care or are terminally ill. There may be an additional fee for this, and of course whatever funds you use from the insurance payout will not be available to family.

These aren’t options for me. What can I do?

The vast majority of people pay for long-term care through Medicaid. This is a needs-based program that pays for medical care, including long-term care, for qualifying individuals who meet the financial requirements. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you must have very little income and assets. Without planning, therefore, you will have to exhaust the assets of the person who needs care before qualifying for Medicaid. This is obviously unappealing for a variety of reasons.

Fortunately, there are ways to qualify for Medicaid without losing everything or leaving family members with nothing. However, it requires advanced planning and legal knowledge to avoid getting penalized by Medicaid. For a discussion on how to properly qualify for Medicaid, consult with an experienced elder law attorney.

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