CAUTION: Long-term care insurance through your employer!

Long-term care insurance (LTC) pays for the things Medicare and other medical insurance do not – assisted living, in-home care, adult daycare and nursing homes.  One of the biggest trends in LTC insurance is group coverage sold through your employer, an association you’re a member of, or even through your bank or credit union. We’ve heard from clients who have asked us if they should buy group long-term care insurance.  The answer is that for most people, group LTC is not a good option.  Here's why....

First things first

The first step in LTC Planning is just that – planning!  Willow Ridge has retained the services of a nationally recognized expert in LTC, Allen Hamm and his company Superior LTC, to help you with planning for long-term care. There’s no additional charge to our clients for this service.  Allen is the author of the book “Long-term Care Planning: Assuring Choice, Independence & Financial Security” which is available at Amazon online.

To help determine whether LTC insurance is the best option for you, Allen uses a seven step LTC planning process. He starts by helping you understand the implications of relying on each available option to pay for long-term care, not just insurance.

But let’s say that you’ve gone through this process and it’s been determined that LTC insurance is the best option for your particular situation. Is Group LTC insurance a good value for you? The answer is: Usually not, but there may be an exception.

Adverse Selection

Unlike most types of group insurance, group LTC is usually moreexpensive than individually issued coverage. This is because group LTC insurance is normally issued on a guaranteed or modified guaranteed issue basis. This means that unhealthy individuals, who would not otherwise pass the underwriting requirements of the insurance company, can obtain coverage through the group. This causes “adverse selection”: a disproportionate number of people buying coverage through the group who are in poor health and likely to have early claims, resulting in higher premiums for everyone.

In future years, adverse selection can also cause premium rates to be raised more frequently and more dramatically than premiums for individually issued coverage. Rates on some older group policies have been raised to the point where people have been forced to cancel the coverage.

The consequences of adverse selection are particularly negative if you’re healthy. By purchasing group coverage, you’ll heavily subsidize higher premiums for those in poor health, and will continue to subsidize increasingly higher premium rates in the future.

“But the Premium Seems so Low!”

Group LTC coverage has the appearance of a lower premium than individually issued coverage, which is why it’s common for people to automatically jump to the conclusion that they should buy it. But when comparing the details and benefits on an "apples-to-apples" basis, group LTC coverage premiums are higher than individually issued coverage.

The initial appearance of lower premiums for group coverage has to do with the fact that group coverage does NOT include the automatic inflation protection benefit as a component of the base policy. Yes, you may be able to purchase additional coverage later through the policy’s Guaranteed PurchaseOption, but the new benefits will charge a premium at your new attained age rate. Based on Mr. Hamm’s experience in auditing older group policies for clients, people normally don’t exercise the option to increase their coverage, due to the increasing higher premium. In fact, people rarely revisit the group LTC insurance decision until several years later, after premiums have gone up dramatically.

Is Group LTC Coverage Ever a Good Value?

If you’re not in good health and you’re unable to qualify for individually issued LTC insurance, group coverage may be a viable alternative for you. But when people are educated about the higher premiums, the likelihood of increasingly higher premiums in future years, and the limited coverage options available through group coverage, they usually choose an option other than insurance as their plan for long-term care. The rare exception is if you have a strong desire to obtain coverage due to health conditions that make the odds of you needing long-term care very high.

Summary

Planning for long-term care can be confusing.  If you haven’t yet developed a plan for long-term care or if you’re being offered group LTC insurance, please contact us to begin the planning process . LTC insurance may not be the best option for you and your family - so paying for it, even at low cost, is a bad investment.