Preparing your family and finances for the future costs and burdens of aging is an essential part of retirement planning. For many American families, some type of Long-Term Care Insurance will be appropriate.
Now you need expert advice. Many people are licensed to sell long-term health care solutions, but very few of them are specialists who understand the products and can shop and compare them.
Seek Help from a Real Professional for Accurate Information - Often Not Your Financial Advisor
Often people think they should involve or work with a financial advisor to plan for long-term health care. On the surface, it makes sense. Since long-term care expenses adversely impact income, assets, and lifestyle, getting help from a financial advisor seems like a good idea. Long-Term Care Insurance is a way to safeguard savings and preserve income in addition to reducing the stress and burdens otherwise placed on your family. However, most financial advisors lack knowledge and expertise when it comes to long-term care.
The same thing with a general insurance agent; the same person who helped you with your auto insurance, for example, also lacks expertise in the complicated world of Long-Term Care Insurance.
The problem is many advisors and insurance agents provide poor recommendations as they lack product and underwriting knowledge. Plus, often, they only work with one or two insurance companies. Premiums can vary over 100% between companies for the same benefit.
What is an LTC Insurance Specialist?
What makes an insurance agent a Long-Term Care Specialist. Many licensed agents describe themselves as a specialist. What makes a person specialist in long-term health care solutions?
It is NOT how many years the agent/advisor has been working. A specialist is an agent/advisor who has helped many people plan for the costs and burdens of aging. While an agent/advisor may "specialize" in this area, often, they have little actual experience.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a national education and advocacy group, suggests that you work with an individual representing multiple top insurance companies and has at least 100 clients they have helped with a policy.
Ask These Questions Before Discussing LTC Planning with Anyone
Top specialists have helped thousands of people. Ask these questions to anyone you speak with about long-term health care planning:
- Are you licensed and have current continuing education in place?
Be sure the agent or advisor is licensed and has the updated continuing education required to offer long-term care solutions. Ask if they are "Partnership Certified" if your state is a partnership state - check to see if your state participates in the Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program Compare State's Long-Term Care Details | LTC News.
Most financial advisors and general insurance agents don't understand the importance of the dollar-for-dollar asset protection offered by the Long-Term Care Partnership Program. While a partnership policy may not be appropriate for everyone, any advisor or insurance agent that is not partnership certified is undoubtedly not a specialist.
- Which insurance companies do you represent?
Long-Term Care Insurance specialists will represent most of the major names in the industry. A few companies use 'captive agents' that can only offer that company's products. Most specialists will be able to compare those products with all the major products in the industry - Top Insurers for Long-Term Care Insurance | LTC News.
If you talk to a captive agent, be sure you shop with a specialist before deciding. Please remember, premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. The underwriting criteria also vary.
The types of plans they offer are also critical. A real specialist will offer all types of long-term health care solutions, including traditional (including partnership certified), hybrid (life or annuity with a qualified LTC rider), or short-term (limited duration) plans.
If they only sell hybrid policies or life insurance policies with critical illness riders, they are not long-term care specialists.
- How many people have you helped obtain Long-Term Care Insurance coverage?
Remember that if an agent/advisor only helps ten people a year, even with 20 years of experience, this is not actual experience. Ask the question direct - how many people have you helped obtain coverage this year? How about last year?
If it is less than 50 per year, they probably lack the proper experience you need to help you probably shop and design an appropriate plan.
- How many families have you helped with claims?
Understanding the claim's process is also fundamental. The total number of claims will be dependent on how many years that they have been in practice. Most specialists have gone through the claims process multiple times.
If they have not yet had a claim, ask them do they understand the claim's process with each company.
- Will they provide you with free accurate quotes along with professional recommendations?
Many general agents or financial advisors must obtain quotes from another source before providing them to you. A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will be able to provide you with free and accurate quotes right away. Unless you have multiple health issues or unusual health problems where they must consult with underwriters before providing you with quotes, there is no reason they cannot offer them right away.
Specialists have the software to create the quotes without delay, often in front of your eyes.
Be Sure Any Agent/Advisor Asks Many Detailed Questions
One way to determine if an agent or advisor is a specialist is to see if they ask you multiple detailed health questions, financial questions, and family history before offering you quotes? If not, the information to receive will not be accurate.
Generally, financial advisors or general insurance agents don't ask enough health and family history questions to make the proper pre-underwriting decisions. A Long-Term Care specialist will spend a lot of time asking these questions. Sometimes the questions may seem very personal, but they are vital to match you with the most appropriate insurance company.
Since a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will understand the underwriting criteria with each company and your specific financial situation, they will make the proper policy design recommendations based on your particular situation.
The goal is to get accurate quotes along with professional recommendations.
Agents May Call Themselves a Specialist - Often They are Not
Some insurance agents also call themselves "specialists" when they are not. While they may "specialize" in long-term care, often, they have little actual experience.
Working with a licensed and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will give you peace of mind knowing you will receive accurate information along with proper advice.
Insurance Premiums are Regulated
Every insurance company must get approval for their rates and other policy information from the state's insurance department. Insurance agents cannot get you 'deals .' Company "A's" premiums are the same no matter what agent you speak with - but premiums get calculated by age, health, family history, and the initial amount of benefits in the policy.
Best to Use a Specialist When Shopping for LTC Insurance
Your financial advisor or general insurance agent is not the person you should depend on when shopping for long-term care solutions. Use a legitimate specialist who represents the major companies in the industry.
A specialist will help you determine if you need the coverage, health qualify for coverage, and then help you shop for the best coverage at the best value so you don't spend more money than you should.
If you have received 'quotes' in the past and thought they were expensive, shop again with a specialist. Keep in mind that LTC Insurance is custom designed. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies. Hybrid policies can be costly compared to traditional plans but come with death benefits.
A specialist will help you navigate all the options - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.
Items to Discuss with a Long-Term Care Specialist
Be sure that you and the specialist discuss several key issues:
- Partnership: Most states offer special policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. The Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program might be one of the best-kept secrets in retirement planning. Make sure the specialist explains this program and how it might help you.
- Tax incentives: There are federal tax incentives available for some people. If you own your own business, be sure to ask.
- Health Savings Accounts: If you have an HSA you can use the pre-tax money in your account to pay for the premium.
- Asset-Based or Hybrid policies: These are life insurance or annuities with a rider for long-term care. They can be expensive but can be paid with a single premium. Careful, only a handful are actually a long-term care benefit. However, one of these policies can provide you with the flexibility of both a long-term care benefit or a death benefit.
- Health and Family History: Make sure the specialist asks you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement plans. If they are not asking you detailed questions, then find another specialist. Underwriting criteria vary with each insurance company.
LTC Specialist May Not Be Local - That's OK
Usually, the insurance company is not nearby, nor will your Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. The specialist's location does not matter; their skill and experience are essential to help you plan for the financial costs and burdens of aging.
Since there are so few top specialists in the country, most specialists have adapted and will easily be able to review your situation on the phone. Some specialists will allow you to see their computer screen on your device. There is no need to meet with an agent or advisor in person; you can do everything from the safety of your home.
The process of learning and shopping is safe and easy. Applications get completed electronically, so there is no wait for paper applications. Electronic applications are now the standard and add another layer of privacy and safety compared to paper applications.