The expenses for long term care is exactly the type of financial risk insurance is best for. The problem is the whole area is so uncertain that what you buy may not provide the coverage you planned on (the health care system is so broken that it is not certain insurance will cover the costs, companies can go bankrupt, change coverage rules drastically…).
The questions about long term care insurance are not about the sensibility of the coverage abstractly, it is very wise. But the complexities, today, in the real world make the question of buying more a guess about what coverage you will actually receive if you need it.
Many of my posts here are focused on the USA but applicable elsewhere, or just applicable wherever you are. This post is mainly focused on the USA, long term care insurance options in other locations will be very different and have different considerations (in many countries it may not even apply, mainly due to a less broken health care system than the USA has).
Long-Term-Care Insurance: Who Needs It? by Marilyn Geewax
Such care can be crushingly expensive: Just one hour of home-health-aide care costs roughly $20, while the average private nursing home room costs $87,000 a year. Neither routine employer-based medical insurance nor Medicare will pay for extended periods of custodial care.”
Also, some people pay their premiums for years, and then get hit with rate hikes they can’t afford.
Insurance has a transaction cost. Paying that transaction cost for expenses you can afford is just waste. You should pay the cost directly. This is why higher deductibles are most often wise. It doesn’t make sense to cover pay insurance costs every year to pay for a $500 risk you can afford to absorb yourself.
But huge expenses are exactly what you want coverage for. Long term care expenses are huge. However, long term care insurance is still in flux, which isn’t good for something you want to provide long term protection. A huge risk is paying premiums for years, and then getting hit with rate hikes that may well be designed primarily just to get people to drop coverage (or be so expensive that those that stay pay enough that the insurance company makes money).
Ideally such insurance would be set so maybe the cost rose at some preset limit when you signed up. The problem is the USA health care system is so broken this won’t work. No one can predict how much more excessively expensive long term coverage will be in 30 years so the insurance companies can’t predict. It leaves consumers in a risky place.
Insurance is regulated by the states. There are huge differences in which states do a good job regulating long term care insurance and those that don’t. The majority don’t.
This is one of the more important areas of personal finance. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. If the system were stable, reliable and predictable, long term care insurance would be a definite requirement for a sound financial plan. Today it is wise to insure yourself from those risks, the problem is determining whether any of the options available are worth it. The risk of needing this insurance is high: it is both likely and costly. So getting coverage is definitely wise if you can find some you think is reliable over the long term. Because of the uncertain nature of the options, this will require much more effort on your part than many personal finance actions (I included several links below to help your research).
Also look at how long the coverage is for. This is another limitation insurance companies have put in place that makes it much less worthwhile.
Related: Personal Finance Basics: Long-term Care Insurance – National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information – AARP advice – Disability Insurance is Very Important – How to Protect Your Financial Health