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.
Learn more about long-term health insurance