On a few occasions, I’ve sought to help families try to manage the cost of senior care for elderly loved ones. It’s a big challenge because on the one hand senior care is very expensive. But on the other hand, families really want to do their best for their elderly parents or grandparents.

This is true for assisted living, in-home long-term care, and nursing homes.

The best solution is to buy a long-term care insurance or life insurance plan. But most seniors dismiss the idea of getting such coverage until they actually need it. What are the other options?

Caring.com has an informative article that explains a lot of what I would say about Assisted Living Costs and Ways to Pay.

The cost of assisted living can seem overwhelming at first glance. However, compared to the average cost of a nursing home ($5,000 to $10,000 per month) or in-home care (about $4,000 per month for 40 hours of care per week), it is often one of the more affordable and convenient options if your loved one doesn’t need close medical supervision.

Read on to learn more about the cost of assisted living and important steps you can take to make this type of care more affordable.

When you receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, many questions and concerns come to mind, not the least of which is covering the cost of care. However, now is a time to prioritize other things, like self-care, family, and friends. To make it easier to focus on those more important aspects of life, here’s what you need to know about your finances so you can spend time tending to yourself and less time worried about costs.

 

Get the Bigger Financial Picture

Care for Alzheimer’s isn’t cheap. In fact, NextAvenue indicates care costs most families in the neighborhood of $60,000 per year. If you should move to assisted living, you could expect to pay around $55,000 annually, while a year in a nursing home would cost $82,000 or more. 

Unfortunately, while Traditional Medicare will help with things like hospital stays, Medicare won’t pick up the tab for the type of daily care most people require, like help with dressing, grooming, and taking medications. You could hire unskilled in-home assistance for around $21 per hour, which obviously could add up fast. While these are daunting figures, don’t get discouraged—you do have options. 

 

Dip Into Insurances

If you have an existing long-term care insurance policy, that can help with the cost of daily care, but if you are older or have a pre-existing condition (like Alzheimer’s or dementia), you won’t be able to apply and qualify for coverage through a brand new policy. U.S.News notes you might be able to use HSA funds for long-term care, depending on the circumstances, but that can be tricky as those funds can only be applied to qualifying expenses.

Families are typically burdened with covering care as well as expenses both during and after your passing, which adds to the stress for everyone involved. The last thing you want is to leave behind a legacy of economic strife. While it’s wise to invest in insurance plans like burial insurance to help with the financial obligations you leave behind, like your funeral, medical expenses, and other debts, with expenses like that, it’s clear a more extensive financial plan is necessary. 

 

Adjust Your Insurance Coverage

Even though Medicare won’t pay for daily Alzheimer’s assistance, Medicare Advantage plans are improving coverage for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases. Non-medical in-home care, home modifications, adult daycare, and assisted living are all on the Medicare Advantage radar, so if you don’t currently have coverage, explore your options. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15 and ends December 7 every year, and you can change plans without penalty during this time.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t currently require assistance, your needs are likely to change over time. An adjustment in coverage now ensures you’re ready for the coming year, come what may. 

 

Think Outside the Box

The natural inclination is to look to insurance first for help with health-related expenses, but there are other ways you can pay for your care as well. For instance, veterans are eligible for assistance through the VA and other military-oriented organizations. Similarly, Daily Caring points out that there are a number of programs that help with home accessibility modifications. You and your loved ones might also be able to qualify for grants designed specifically for those coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

You also might have other untapped resources. For instance, homeowners can consider a reverse mortgage to help cover their care costs. Bear in mind these mortgages are best for those who do not have anyone else residing at the home because of how the loans are structured. Just like it sounds, lenders pay borrowers for the property and the debt increases over time. The loan is settled when the borrower moves out, sells the property, or passes away. While not perfect for everyone, in some circumstances, it’s an ideal solution.

While there are no simple fixes for covering the costs of Alzheimer’s, thankfully, there are several avenues to explore. Look into various insurance policies and get familiar with your other options. Once you have a financial plan configured, you can set that concern aside and focus on the more important things in life—like your loved ones and yourself.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo by JORGE LOPEZ on Unsplash

American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, so it’s a great time to have a conversation with me about your health insurance. Did you know that cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of medical bankruptcy due to inadequate health insurance (reference)?

Help protect yourself and your family by contacting me about health insurance and critical illness insurance, so you’re covered.

Speak with your doctor about signs that lead to early detection, recognizing the symptoms, and getting regular screenings.

And, be heart healthy!

When you become eligible for Medicare, you’ll have to make some very important decisions. Taking the time to shop around for plans can save you a lot of money on prescription drugs and other healthcare expenses. However, it’s easy to get caught up in complicated terms, misconceptions, and marketing material. If all the complexities of Medicare have you scratching your head, don’t worry! Here are some quick tips to help you make the right choice.

 

Learn About Your Options

People signing up for Medicare have two basic options for coverage: Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. If you go with Original Medicare, you can add prescription drug coverage and/or supplement with a Medigap plan to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Alternatively, most Medicare Advantage plans include dental, vision, and hearing coverage and offer services not covered by Original Medicare.

There are several online resources that can help you understand Medicare a little better. For example, it’s a good idea to look for information on the sign-up process before enrolling, especially if you’re not very tech-savvy. Medicare.org details everything you need to know about signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan. As you navigate the maze of Medicare, use resources like these if you ever need help.

 

Be Aware of Medicare Myths

One of the most common myths surrounding Medicare is that the program is free. Original Medicare, the federal government program, is broken into Part A and Part B. It’s true that Part A is free for most Americans, but Part B requires a monthly premium. On top of this, you will face costs for deductibles and copayments with Original Medicare.

Many people also think that Medicare covers all areas of healthcare. While Original Medicare does cover many expenses, which you can read about here, it does not cover everything. For example, Medicare does not pay for hearing, dental, or vision care. You will also have to pay for an additional plan — called Medicare Part D — if you want prescription drug coverage.

 

 Make a List of Your Healthcare Criteria

Many seniors choose to supplement Medicare with a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. Read this for help understanding the difference between the two. Original Medicare with a supplementary Medigap plan may give you more flexibility regarding which healthcare providers you can visit. On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans usually include a wider range of benefits. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover preventive services and wellness programs. According to Forbes, this may encourage seniors to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Compare Medicare plans against a list of your personal criteria for help picking out a plan that’s well-suited to your needs. Note any specialists you visit, such as chiropractors, physical therapists, or acupuncturists. If you have preferred local doctors, pharmacists, or hospitals, include these on your list as well. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any upcoming medical needs that you may need to have covered in the future. Also, you can use this guide from Kiplinger to find a Medicare drug plan that will cover your medications and dosages. As you’re comparing plans, don’t forget to look at the premiums and co-payments associated with each. Plans with lower premiums usually require higher co-payments and vice versa.

 

Be Cautious to Avoid Scams

As you shop around for coverage, be alert to common Medicare scams. In general, an unsolicited caller claiming to be an “official Medicare agent” is likely a scammer. These people may threaten seniors with penalties or offer deals to sign up for their special plan. Remember, the government will never call you about your healthcare coverage! While there are many reputable, licensed insurance agents selling Medicare plans, they cannot contact you in any way without your permission — this includes cold calling, leaving flyers, and visiting your home.

Choosing the right Medicare plan will lay the groundwork for your future health. Shop around, compare plans, and make an educated decision. A great plan that meets your personal criteria and covers valuable services will help you prevent health problems and maintain your general wellness as you embark into retirement.

 

Guest post by Karen Weeks: Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Photo via Unsplash

Would you appreciate the stability of having the same health insurance plan for up to three years? Do you want coverage for preventive care, office visits and prescriptions but need a more affordable option than what has been available up to this point?

There have been some exciting developments in the past year when it comes to private health insurance plans. Insurance companies continue to offer low-cost health plans that cover only the Essentials – injuries, illnesses, and sickness – but the loosening of restrictions has helped matters. Insurers have responded by offering benefits, calling these new plans Enhanced.

How, exactly, are they enhanced? Insurers now have plans that offer:

  • More copay benefits.
  • Greater preventive care benefits.
  • Tiered prescription benefits.
  • Guaranteed renewal for up to 3 years instead of 1.

*Enhanced plans are not available in all states.

**Enhanced plans are being offered by Golden Rule (United Healthcare PPO) and National General (Aetna & Cigna PPOs).

Call the Rhoads Insurance Agency today to learn more.

The HealthiestYou telehealth app from Teladoc® has always offered individuals and families access to 24/7 virtual care from a nationwide network of doctors – all for the cost of a small monthly membership fee. Beginning October 1, 2019, for an additional per-use charge, that access will extend to Behavioral Health Care and Dermatology Services.

NEW! Behavioral Health Care – Your clients can receive support for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, family problems, and other issues. Care from a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist is available by phone or video 7 days a week.

NEW! Dermatology Services – Your clients can share photos of their skin condition or infection with a board-certified dermatologist and receive a diagnosis and treatment plan within two business days (typically within 8 hours).2 Free follow-up is included for a week after the session.

Included with Membership – Your clients will still have access to doctors ready to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication for many of the most common ailments, right over the phone. They can use the app to find a doctor, dentist or other provider in their area, and comparison shop to get the best price on a procedure or prescription.

HealthiestYou can be a great add-on to insurance products! Call us today to add coverage.

Are you confused by Life Insurance? Can’t decide which plan to go with? Or maybe you think you just don’t need it? Well here’s a Hint: You’re thinking about it all wrong.

As an agent, I actually get angry when I hear about people who have children, but they have no, or very little, life insurance. I’m angry at the person, I’m judging them hardcore, and I think:

“You’re a #$!# adult, with people depending on you, and you don’t have the $&%# sense to make sure that if you die they’ll be okay?! You work your butt off, you work that way to provide for them. So if you’re not there to provide for them, then what happens to them?”

It makes me angry that people learn things the hard way, when they don’t have to. They get a mortgage, take care of their family, and think that they don’t need life insurance. Then, one day, something happens – they die, or can’t work anymore, or have out-of-control medical bills. These people come to me and ask for help, when it’s too late. Their only resort then is a damn GoFundMe campaign!!

And don’t over-complicate it. If you die, do you know what the ONLY question your spouse will ask your insurance agent is? Your spouse won’t ask whether it is Term or Permanent Life Insurance. The only question they will ask is, “How much is it?”

As an agent, I don’t even care whether you get the life insurance with me or not. If you’re not asking this simple question, “Do I have enough Life Insurance,” then you’re setting your family up for financial loss.

Many Americans could not afford an unexpected $1,000+ medical bill, and deductibles are often even higher than that. So just imagine needing $10,000 a month for chemo, or needing open heart surgery! That’s what happens if you’re diagnosed with cancer, heart attack, or other critical illness. You may need help with your deductible.

A critical illness (CI) insurance policy can fill that gap in coverage and keep you afloat. CI pays you a lump sum that you can use however you like – to pay what your health insurance didn’t cover, or to pay household bills while you take time off work to recover.

 

Did you know that there are 2 ways to get CI coverage?

Stand-alone CI policies larger than $50,000 are not avaiable though. That would help with deductibles.

Another, better way to get CI benefits is to get life insurance with living benefits. Living benefits bundles critical illness benefits together with chronic and terminal illness benefits, into a life insurance policy. This isn’t available with all life insurance policies, so talk to your agent about it.

With this type of policy, you can convert 75-95% of your life insurance’s death benefit into something you can receive while you’re still living.

If you need life insurance, this is a much more economical way to plan your benefits. Call us to learn more.

Vision insurance easily gets overlooked. It’s about the least expensive type of insurance that exists — and maybe you can do without a new pair of glasses this year, right? So it’s okay to ignore or push off to next year, am I right?

We disagree. Vision insurance will make a big impact on your appearance and lifestyle. And all for just a few dollars a month. Consider the following:

  • Seeing clearly will ensure you’re productive and successful in your work life and your home life.
  • Glasses need to be replaced from time to time, just due to normal wear and tear.
  • You feel better about yourself when you buy nice-looking new clothes. It’s the same when you get new glasses. You feel good and look great.
  • Vision benefits can be used every calendar year. But most plans offer so much savings that you’re still saving if you only get a new pair of glasses every 24 months!

So don’t put off getting new glasses, and don’t pay full retail price.

Does Medicare Cover Travel Abroad?

The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) has this to say about travel:

Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care while you’re traveling outside the u.s. There are some exceptions, including some cases where Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) may pay for services that you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S.

Medicare drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

 

So where can I find travel insurance?

We at the Rhoads Agency don’t focus on international insurance plans, but we do offer them. They are so versatile and affordable, that we think that everyone should have one when abroad. We work with International Medical Group (IMG) plans, that cover evacuations and medical care. Their plans also help ease trip cancellations and lost luggage.

There are plans for business travelers, globe-trotting seniors, missionaries, marine crew, and exchange students, as well as foreign nationals visiting the U.S. And plans can be customized to last anywhere from 5 days to 2 years, depending on your plans.

If you’re a retiree looking to visit Europe, go on a cruise, or have other international plans, give us a call!