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More than half the U.S. population will require long-term care at some point in their lives, according to statistics from Americans for Long Term Care Security.

But long-term care doesn’t come cheaply — average nursing home costs range from $40,000 to $80,000 each year.

“Don’t assume Uncle Sam will help, because Medicare doesn’t cover most long-term care costs, ” says Sandy Stanovic, vice president of The Church Agency Inc. in Akron.

That’s why long-term care (LTC) insurance is a popular way to protect yourself against the catastrophic costs of unexpected, prolonged care, Stanovic says.

“Most LTC policies allow for visiting nurses, at-home helpers and companions, assisted living homes and skilled nursing homes,” says Stanovic. “You can also design your own policy to designate your daily benefit amount.”

While some employers offer these benefits to employees, most of the LTC insurance market is composed of individual products. However, a June 2000 Analysis of Employer Group LTC Insurance (conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy) reveals that LTC insurance sold through employers has advantages over policies available through the individual market.

For example, a majority of employers offered less restrictive underwriting. Some even guarantee to issue policies by not requiring health information during initial offerings to employees. A majority also offered coverage to spouses, parents and parents-in-law.

In the survey, employers offered a full range of coverage for most recognized LTC services, and the benefits resembled those of individually purchased policies. Most employer plan policies stipulated a waiting period that acts like a deductible, and all offered some type of inflation protection.

“That’s so the amount of coverage per day benefit goes up as the policy ages,” Stanovic says.

More than half the employers surveyed offered some type of nonforfeiture benefit that provides a level of benefits if coverage stops because of a lapse in premium payments. The most common nonforfeiture benefit is a “reduced paid up benefit” that provides a reduced benefit amount over the same benefit period as defined in the policy.

The bottom line, Stanovic says, is that people don’t want to spend down assets prematurely for unexpected, prolonged care. They don’t want to cut corners and jeopardize their well-being. And they don’t want to burden their families

“This is a way to save your estate from being depleted if you find yourself faced with the long-term care issue,” Stanovic says. How to reach: The Church Agency Inc., (330) 733-1800 or www.churchagency.com

An eldercare alternative

More than 16 million U.S. citizens are 75 years old or older. Mirroring a concept established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, an Akron accounting firm has established an Eldercare practice area that helps older people manage their financial affairs.

“Eldercare enables the elderly to live as independently as possible while also reassuring them and their families that their day-to day financial needs are being met,” says Karen J. Randall, a CPA and tax manager at Bruner-Cox LLP.

In addition to providing personal bookkeeping services, a B-C Eldercare consultant can provide advice about insurance, tax and investment matters. How to reach: Bruner-Cox LLP, (330) 376-0100 or www.brunercox.com