BOSTON (CBS) – Long term care is simply defined as the care needed for individuals with chronic disabilities. This care may now be in the individual’s home or it may mean custodial care in a nursing home.

Planning for long term care is difficult because we don’t know if we’ll ever need it during our lifetime. Studies have indicated that 40% of Americans over age 65 will eventually need some kind of long term care. But the key here is for how long and for what reason.

At age 75 if you have a knee replacement the hospital will discharge you in a couple of days. You may not be capable of taking care yourself. You are admitted to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Now that stay may be 1-2 weeks depending how quickly you recuperate and then once you are home there may be more care needed. You are now part of the 40% who will spend time in a nursing home.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, slightly over 5% of the 65+ population occupy nursing homes, congregate care, assisted living facilities and about 4% are in nursing homes at any given time. The rate of nursing home use increases with age and almost 50% of those 95 and older live in nursing homes.

Long term care has been increasing in cost at over 4% a year. The national average annual cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $81,000, with it costing over $117,000 here in Massachusetts, according to a survey done this spring by GenWorth Financial. That’s about $320 a day. If your income from your pensions and Social Security is about $40,000 a year you will need insurance to provide you with a daily benefit of $225 a day.

The younger you are the less expensive long term care insurance will be. A 65-year-old couple in good health (you don’t think they want to insure the sick people do you?) can purchase a good long term care insurance policy with a 90-day waiting period, a 3-year benefit period, $125 a day benefit for either home care or nursing home care for under $5,000 a year.

Start with your employer to see if they offer LTC insurance in the form of a group policy. Get quotes from reputable insurance companies and compare the policies. I got online with several different companies and the price varied as much as $500 for what appeared to be the same coverage. Two things will affect the cost of your premiums; your age and your health. The older you are the more expensive the policy.

Check out the office of Health and Human Services in Boston for more information.

One more thing:   The cost of LTC is a tax deduction if you itemize. The older you are the larger the deduction. It gets lumped in with your medical expenses.

2012 Long Term Care Insurance Federal Tax Deductible Limits

Taxpayer’s Age At End of Tax Year – Deductible Limit

40 or less $ 350
More than 40 but not more than 50 $ 660
More than 50 but not more than 60 $1,310
More than 60 but not more than 70 $3,500
More than 70 $4,370

Source: IRS Revenue Procedure: 2011-52


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