Protecting Your Life Savings

State officials will soon be asking you to partner with them in an attempt to avert a future health care crisis.

Governor Bill Ritter will unveil a new program in two weeks; a program that will reward those who purchase what's called long-term care insurance.

One Colorado Springs family learned the hard way what can happen when you don't have long-term care insurance.

Val Fox has been staying at home for three years now looking after her 84-year-old mother, Lynn, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease.

The former flight attendant quit her job and made a number of sacrifices so her mom could move in and be cared for 24/7. More recently, Val was forced to purchased a door alarm after her mother wandered away in the middle of the night.

Lynn used to have long term care insurance, but dementia set in and she didn't know her policy had lapsed. Since her daughter didn't know Lynn was ill, she didn't know how vital that policy was.

Val says, "My life would be different. Like I said I would have a career... I would be able to contribute to a 401k, I wouldn't be begging my siblings right now... please help contribute!"

Lynn doesn't qualify for Medicaid. Her monthly pension is more than the $1,911 cap set by the state, so if she someday requires more care than Val can provide... she'll have to give up everything to pay for a nursing home.

And she's not alone.

Statistics show one out of every four American households cares for someone over the age of 50. Many of those families just can't afford to get help.

Len Engstrom will not suffer like Val and Lynn do. The retired Air Force chaplain took out a long-term care policy years ago, in part because his wife, Faye, also has Alzheimers.

Engstrom can rest assured; Faye's $4,500 per month stay at a Springs care facility is completely covered.

Len says, "At this point it's been an eight-year journey with my wife dying. I think long-term health insurance is a very, very wise investment."

Buying any type of insurance is like rolling the dice. You never know if you'll need it, but your policy gives you peace of mind if you're involved in a car accident or if your house goes up in flames.

The same is true with a long term care policy.

If you suffer a chronic illness or have a memory problem and need help with daily activities... long-term care insurance pays for in-home care. It can also pay for you to stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Experts say don't assume Medicaid will pay for it. That's not always the case.

Patricia Michels has been in the insurance industry for more than 20 years. She believes everyone should do long-term care planning because care facilities are so expensive.

"You should start looking into it as soon as possible."

Michels adds, "$4,500 to $6,000 a month is average. Most people can't afford that out of their net income." She also adds the cost for in-home care is about $19 an hour.

Michels urges folks to check out local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She says communicate with loved ones and find out their needs and preferences.

Michels warns the biggest mistake is waiting too long to address the issue. She says, "The younger you are, the less it costs."

Michels says there's no average cost for policies since each one is tailored to the individual.

The bottom line... 78 million people will soon be turning 65 and Uncle Sam won't be paying for everyone's health needs.

The best way to protect yourself is to plan ahead.

Related Information:
Learn more about long-term health insurance

Do you have a long-term health insurance plan?

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by valerie Fox Location: Colorado Springs on May 14, 2008 at 02:44 PM
    To answer Davids' question:My mom, Lynn does not qualify for medicaid, which is for people with lower incomes. She does have Medicare..( for older people) but that does not pay for long term nursing homes.I am blessed now that I am spiritually, finacially, physically able to care for her in my own home for now!But as the disease progresses.. I am praying my brothers will pitch in for a home if need be..down the road. I did try and contact the long term care policy to have my moms LTC reinstated & they gave me the I am sorry it's too late.My mom worked hard for 20 years and has a good retirement and ss pension ..just not enough for a nursing home @ 5-6,000 a month. God willing I will get the help I need when that day comes. I think this is a very good lesson for all! Be prepared for the unexpected and know what your parents are up to.Talk about the what ifs'. God Bless all those caregivers out there taking care of their parents..there is a place in heaven for you all!
  • by Mg Location: Phoenix, Arizona on May 11, 2008 at 06:00 PM
    Most LTCi policies have an "unintentional lapse" notification. The policy holder identifies a person who should be notified if ever they miss a payment. This feature is designed so that person with dementia, multiple moves or hospitalizations will have a safety net for not losing their policy. Did her carrier attempt to contact the person identified in her policy? You may want to check with the carrier as to who was the designee.
  • by David Location: Colorado Springs on May 9, 2008 at 11:36 PM
    Is that Medicaid or Medicare that Lynn did not qualify for? I thought that Medicaid is generally for younger people with lower incomes while Medicare is for retirees and disabled people. I know they are two very different programs...
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