Two weeks ago I sprained my ankle playing a pick-up game of basketball at a local park. It was the result of a complete accident; a collision and subsequent turn of my foot that lead to the injury. After staying off my feet as much as I could, as well as elevating and applying an ice pack to may ankle, I am now back on the courts (and playing quite well, I might add). However, something occurred to me just yesterday: what if that accidental collision caused me to fall to the ground rather than simply twisting my foot? And what if in the course of my fall, I landed on my head, neck or back – leading to severe, life-long injury? There is no amount of ice in the world, nor is there any level of elevation, that could help mend such wounds. The only answer in this case would be long-term care.

When we typically think of long-term care, we are oft inclined to direct such a notion only at the elderly. While the belief that only the elderly need such care is not a completely unfounded presumption, some credence must be also be given to reality that people of all ages should consider some form of long-term care insurance. Like my above stated example, accidents can happen at any time. They strike without warning, leaving you and your loved ones to try and make sense of the situation. With long-term health insurance, you are at least relieved of the financial burden most accidents, injuries and illnesses often carry. A common myth is that Medicare and Medicaid will cover the bills. According to the Federal Long Term Care website, “Medicare is generally available for those who are disabled and for people over age 65, and pays limited amounts for skilled care following a hospital [stay]. Medicare is the government program to help those in financial need. It will not begin until virtually all of yours and your spouse’s assets have been consumed. People who have greater assets or income may end up spending down their savings in order to be eligible.”

Another common belief is that do not need any form of long-term health insurance because if we do suddenly need home-based care, our families will take care of us. Forty years ago, this may have been a viable alternative. But, in the fast-paced world we live in today – one in which most women are active, full-time members of the workforce – such a belief is unrealistic. It is highly unlikely that a member of one’s family would financially able to take on the role of full-time caregiver. Furthermore, a family member simply may not want to sacrifice their own life, their own ambitions, for the sake of providing home-based care.

But, let’s face it…. you’re young. You’re strong and healthy. Why should you even waste a minute of your day thinking about any of the aforementioned? Here’s why: 6 out of 10 people who reach the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point, one-third of the population will have a stroke by the age of 65, and that the average annual cost of home-based care can range from $12,000 to $50,000. With that all in mind, now ask yourself some new questions, like: How would I possibly ever afford to pay a bill that large? Would the government provide me with any form of subsidy (which, as explained in an earlier paragraph, will only take place once all of your assets have been exhausted)? The answer soon becomes clear that no one is too young or too healthy to enroll in a long-term health insurance policy.

Some people may opt against paying a monthly premium for long-term health insurance, and instead attempt to save for future health care and/or assisted living costs. To put the irrationality of this decision into perspective, let’s give someone the benefit of the doubt and say that they will live a healthy life and do not move into a nursing home until the age of 75. Now, let’s pretend that they have saved $5,000 every year since the age of 40 for the very purpose of ensuring that can pay for nursing home fees later in life. By multiplying the $5,000 by the 35 years that have passed, the resulting figure is $175,000. At first glance, this may appear to be a great deal of money – an amount that should, by all rights, be able to more than provide for someone’s elderly care. However, when you consider the fact that the average annual cost of a semi-private nursing home room is $52,000, you can see how over a span of several years the individual will run out of funds. Moreover, you must also bear in mind that this calculation is predicated upon current costs. By the year 2030, it is estimated that same nursing home bed will cost approximately $200,000 per year. Therefore, if a forty year old person decided today to begin saving for his future nursing home care, he would have to save upwards of $6,000 per year for the next 35 years just to pay for the first twelve months of their nursing home stay. This, of course, is all working under the assumption that someone will even be able to save $6,000 per year.

The more fiscally sound alternative to this unfortunate life calculus is long-term health care insurance. For example, a bi-weekly premium purchase for a person at age 40 that covers home and facilities care is currently about $30.05 (rates vary by company). And while these costs are not fixed and do rise with inflation (this same person would pay about $43.06 once they reach age 50), naturally, the average yearly income would also grow accordingly.

Just like car insurance, for example, it is easy to view payments for unused services such as long-term care insurance as a waste of money. That is, of course, until an accident occurs. It is at this point that the true value of coverage is demonstrated. You are not too young, and you are definitely not too old to consider taking out a long-term health care insurance policy. It not only can save you money, but it also may save your life.


Chris Sparling