I talk to a lot of my clients about buying long-term care insurance (LTCI). Many people come to my office asking about “nursing home planning” – how to make sure they don’t use up all of their savings if they end up in a nursing home. And my response is always, “Your nursing home planning is to stay out of a nursing home.” And one key piece to keeping people in their homes with care, and out of the nursing home, is to have LTCI.
After seven long years of advocacy by MassNAELA (that’s the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys), yesterday Governor Patrick signed a bill that makes LTCI an even better bet for seniors.
Until now, if seniors were lucky enough to have LTCI, they could of course use the policy to pay for care in their homes. But – they’ve had to keep a careful eye on how much of the policy they were using up at home. When home care is no longer medically viable, and the senior needs to go to the nursing home, then the LTCI would protect the value of their home from the cost of nursing home care – but only if they entered the nursing home with a certain amount of money still in the policy. This had the effect of either (1) forcing seniors to leave their homes before they wanted to, or (2) staying at home longer and using up the policy benefits, finally going to nursing home, and losing the house to the cost of nursing home care.
Now things will be different – and better. If a senior has a LTCI policy that meets MassHealth standards at the time of purchase, then she can use as much of that policy as she wants to stay in her own home for as long as she safely can. Then, if she ever needs to move to a nursing home, no matter how little benefit is left in the policy, her home will still be sheltered from the cost of nursing home care. This will help seniors stay at home longer, and will keep MassHealth’s costs down. A win-win for seniors and MassHealth.