Long Term Care: Thinking The Unthinkable

Wednesday - 4/20/2011, 4:00am EDT

Most people don't like to think about what would happen to them, and their families, if they are unable to take care of themselves because of age or an accident. You can become totally dependent at 30 as well as 90. This is not an old folks issue by any means.

The only thing worse than planning for the worst is not planning for it. It could destroy your dignity and self-esteem and bankrupt you and your family. Instead of leaving your kids a legacy, you might leave them with a pile of debts.

This is the long term care insurance (LTC) open season for members of the federal family. If you have coverage via Uncle Sam or through a private carrier, you may want to review what you have, consider what you need and either sign up or make changes in current coverage.

My mother, a retired fed, needed almost total care in her last couple of years. Thanks to her civil service retirement check, a modest Social Security benefit and her LTC policy, she got the best care at minimal costs to me and her grandchildren who helped a lot.

So I asked benefits expert Tammy Flanagan to talk about LTC. As always, she hit it out of the park. This is what she said:

    I thought it might be good to point out the three things about the federal plan that are relatively unique and not always available in the private LTC market. This will help federal employees as they debate whether to buy the federal plan or shop around the private insurance market. I definitely think that this purchase is one that should be shopped for both in and outside of the federal plan. There may be discounts available, shared policies for you and a partner or spouse, and hybrid life insurance/ long term care insurance products that might interest you that aren't available in the federal plan. Butů these advantages of the federal plan should not be overlooked as they are valuable features you might be glad to have:

  1. Aging in Place - the last place any of us want to go for our final days or years of our lives would be a nursing home. Most of us would prefer to stay in our own homes and sleep in our own beds if at all possible. The federal plan provides many benefits to make this possible. One of the biggest features is offering up to 500 days of informal caregiver services. This means you can hire your family member (who doesn't already live in your home, but may move into your home to provide for your care) to provide the care that you need. According to the FLTCIP web site, the FLTCIP offers a stay-at-home benefit which can pay benefits for numerous options that support care in a home environment such as care planning visits, home modifications, an emergency medical response system, durable medical equipment, caregiver training, and home safety checks. In other words if you need to have a wheelchair ramp installed or grab bars put up in your bathroom, you can use some of your long-term care benefits to pay for these services. You may also use some of the money to pay for caregiver training. These benefits can also be used during the 90-day waiting period, so there is no waiting and no deductible needed for using these benefits.

  2. Care Coordinators - these are people, licensed health-care professionals such as registered nurses, who will help find care in your area and suggest ways to age in place rather than move to a nursing home or other facility situation. This can help a family who is new to dealing with the needs of a disabled family member. This is a service provided through the FLTCIP at no additional charge. The care coordinators will help develop a plan of care when your claim is approved to provide the most beneficial care for your family member. The care coordinator assigned to you will be the one you talk to every time you contact FLTCIP and they can also help you find discounts and programs that will be the most cost effective way to handle the situation that you need help with.

  3. FLTCIP offers an independent 3rd party review process. If a claim is denied by FLTCIP, it can be appealed to an independent 3rd party review to be sure the denial was valid. The decision must be made within 60 days of the appeal.