Purchasing long term care insurance (LTCI) is an important decision but the policies can be complex and many find them confusing.  There are a lot of variables, it’s a relatively young insurance category that’s still evolving, and – like all insurance – it involves balancing possible value against likely risk. Our company, LTC Consumer, offers unbiased resources so you can educate yourself about LTCI, get free quotes, and talk to specialists who can help you evaluate your options. Here are six tips for making the process of buying long term care insurance easier.

Assess your needs. No one can predict the future, but you can make educated guesses about the kind of long term care you or your parents may eventually require. Call or visit local nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health agencies in your area and ask about care and cost. Take notes, or set up a spreadsheet. You can get a good idea of the kind of policy or savings you’re likely to need.

Shop around. The cost for the same kind of policy can vary significantly and some carriers have features that others don’t.  You will save a significant amount of money if you compare providers and policies. Read consumer reviews. Ask friends, colleagues or speak with a long term care specialist.  The more you learn, the more confident you will be when you’re ready to make a decision about long term care insurance. Our Consumer Specialists are independent and represent consumers, not insurance companies.  They take the time to understand your goals and needs even if it is just to answer questions or provide a policy review.  If you are considering buying a plan make sure you work with someone who is able to shop multiple carriers and to help you get the best deal.

Do the math.  According to a recent study by Genworth Financial, the national median monthly cost of assisted living center is $3,500 per month and the cost has increased an average of 4.29% over the past 5 years.  A Home Health Aide median cost is $20 per hour and has increased 1.32% over the past 5 years.  If you are using savings, make sure you have a specific investment marked for long term care expenses.  If you are buying insurance it is important that you consider that you get good coverage but that you can reasonably afford.  Insurance is only good if it is inforce at the time you need it.

Understand your policy. Ask questions until you understand. Consult third parties, like LTC Consumer, and your doctor and lawyer. Don’t sign up for something you don’t understand no matter how good of a deal it may seem.

Use your head…and your gut. Does it sound “too good to be true”? Is it a “limited-time offer”? Those may be red flags that you’re hearing more of a sales pitch rather than a well-designed solution. When you do get an offer that you like and trust, be sure to get it in writing. Read your LTCI policy before signing it.

Don’t wait too long. The point of insurance is that you have it before the unexpected happens; plus, premiums are lower the younger and healthier you are when you get insured. You pay for the premium with your money but you buy the policy with your health!  Yes, take your time and do it right – but don’t put it on the back burner until it’s too late. Hard to know when to get started? How about right now.