Nearly 70% of 65-year-old people will need long-term care services or support, according to 2020 data from the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women typically need care for an average of 3.7 years, while men require it for 2.2 years.
Regular health insurance doesn’t cover long-term care. And Medicare won’t come to the rescue, either; it covers short nursing home stays or limited amounts of home health care when you require skilled nursing or rehab only. It doesn’t pay for custodial care, which includes supervision and help with day-to-day tasks.
If you don’t have insurance to cover long-term care, you’ll have to pay for it yourself in most states. You can get help through Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance program for those with low incomes, but only after you’ve exhausted most of your savings.
People buy long-term care insurance for two reasons:
- To protect savings. Long-term care costs can deplete a retirement nest egg quickly. The median cost of care in a semiprivate nursing home room is $93,072 a year, according to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey.
- To give you more choices for care. The more money you can spend, the better the quality of care you can get. If you have to rely on Medicaid, your choices will be limited to the nursing homes that accept payments from the government program. Medicaid doesn’t pay for assisted living in many states.
Buying long-term care insurance might not be affordable if you have a low income and little savings. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners says some experts recommend spending no more than 5% of your income on a long-term care policy.