Our safety net has a hole in it.
If you or a loved one live in North Carolina and end up needing 24-hour-per-day care in an assisted living facility (like many persons in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, for example), you will have to pay for your care. If your monthly income is greater than $1,247.50, including your Social Security, you will not qualify for Medicaid in assisted living even if you spend your last dime and sell your home.
Many “stay-at-home” mothers lose everything paying for assisted living. Assisted living costs at least $3,500 or as much as $6,000 per month in the Piedmont Triad. Today’s 40 and 50-year olds with decent work histories will never qualify, and North Carolina does not want to expand its State/County Special Assistance Program that helps low-income seniors pay for assisted living. Having seen many sad situations, I bought long-term care insurance for myself at age 42.
The insurance industry, financial advisors and many elder law attorneys, including me until recently, recommend starting to consider long-term care insurance between ages 50 to 55. Looking back at some of my experiences with long-term care insurance, I would suggest you consider purchasing it at even a younger age for 3 reasons. First, insurance companies are getting pickier about who they are willing to insure. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, arthritis or diabetes, the cost of the insurance will greatly increase. Second, in my personal experience, many insurers are charging higher premiums today than 10 years ago. A 50-year-old buying a policy today may get a better deal than a 50-year-old 3 years from now. My wife and I found that out when we tried purchasing her a policy 3 years after purchasing mine when she was roughly my same age. Why? Insurers underestimated the risk of long-term care and may have set premiums too low. Third, the older you are, the more costly long-term care insurance us and the fewer options you will have or be able to afford. I purchased a long-term care insurance policy that will cover me for my lifetime with a 5% inflation rider 8 years ago. It will be paid up at age 52.
Think I am trying to sell you a policy? Nope, I am not an insurance agent, just your local elder law attorney.