Vail Valley: Myths and misconceptions of long-term health care
Long-term care.” Even the words can sound scary or confusing to Vail Valley residents and others. But if you have the facts, the term can actually be reassuring. Here are some common myths and misconceptions from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to help you make an educated decision about your possible long-term care needs.• Misconception: “I’m too young to need to think about long-term care.”Truth: According to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 40 percent of people receiving long-term care are working-age adults, between the ages of 18 and 64. Roughly 70 percent of people above age 65 need long-term care at some point, and your odds of needing long-term care increase as you age. • Misconception: “I can continue staying home and having family members take care of me.” Truth: You certainly can. The majority of long-term care is performed in private homes, often by unpaid family members. However, even if family members provide the bulk of long-term care, periodic visits from professionals may still be necessary. And home care has its own costs-besides remodeling (for wheelchair access or hospital-type beds) and transportation costs. Family caregivers often see a decrease in their income due to lost work time. Even if home care is viable now, it may not work forever: Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that nearly half of people over age 65 require professional care at some point. • Misconception: “I don’t need to plan ahead to finance long-term care. I’ll cover the costs with my regular savings or get it covered by Medicare or Medicaid.” Truth: If you have significant liquid assets at your disposal, you may be able to pay for your long-term care (known as self-insurance). However, according to the Genworth 2009 Cost of Care Survey, long-term care costs are often higher than expected. For example, even in Iowa – one of the most affordable states for long-term care – the average cost for a private room in a nursing facility is $51,830 a year. Your personal savings may not be enough to cover the costs and still pay for basic living expenses. You also may wipe out the funds you had planned to leave as an inheritance. Many people believe that Medicare will cover their needs for long-term care-only to discover that this government program offers limited assistance in most cases. “There is a common misperception that Medicare will come to your aid when you need long-term care,” says Julie Murawski, a health products manager for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. “That’s just not true.” In fact, Medicare offers long-term care coverage only under tightly restricted circumstances and usually for a limited amount of time.”Here are some things you can do now if you think you may not qualify for this coverage in the future:• Talk to your physician and review “Medicare & You,” the basic primer available for free at medicare.gov, to learn more about eligibility.• Even if you are eligible for Medicare, the program typically only pays for skilled medical care, such as a registered nurse. If you want to be able to pay someone to cook meals and do light cleaning around the house, you might want to consider long-term care coverage.• Find out if potential care facilities allow clients to transition to Medicaid. In some cases, you can move into your facility of choice and cover costs with your own assets at first, then start using Medicaid after exhausting your own reserves. If your facility of choice does not allow this transition, it’s crucial to know that you may have to move in the future.Now that you have the proper information, the next step is to meet with your financial representative to learn more about your long-term care options as well as the various ways you might pay for it. Having a plan in place is something that you and your family cannot do without and can give you the peace of mind that you are protected.Patricia French, a certified financial planner with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, serves Eagle and Summit counties. She can be reached at 970-926-0251. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit, Fortune 500 financial services membership organization with approximately 2.6 million members. This column was prepared by Thrivent Financial.