Leveen speaks to Parkersburg Rotary Club about insurance

PARKERSBURG – The possibility of long-term care is a topic many aging people are not prepared to discuss yet even though many from the baby-boom generation are beginning to reach the age of 65, a long-term care insurance expert told the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday.

Honey Leveen, LUTCF, CLTC, LTCP, who describes herself as “The Queen of Long-Term Care Insurance,” has been an insurance agent specializing in long-term care coverage since 1990. The Houston, Texas, resident speaks and writes on the topic of long-term care needs in various venues. She serves as a board adviser to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

She said many states are terrified of the oncoming silver tsunami of baby boomers who are all aging with an average of 10,000 turning 65 everyday.

”Most people who will need long-term care are at the age of 80, so it won’t be for another 15-20 years from now that we really get hit with the deluge of people who are completely unprepared for needing long-term care,” Leveen said. ”There is a 70 percent, or a three in four, chance that any of us will need long-term care.

”When you will need care, it can end up being expensive and most of us will be unprepared. Most of us are just not prepared to have that conversation about what could happen in 15-20 years.”

It is the uncomfortable feeling that causes people to not want to have that conversation, Leveen said.

In quoting statistics from the 3in4 Need More Campaign to get seniors planning for long-term care needs, Leveen said long-term care is care for chronic illnesses and disabilities. Care can include needing help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, transportation, continence and eating.

Specific policies can cover needs such as bathing and dressing and making sure people are not a danger to others or themselves, Leveen said.

Spending on long-term care for the elderly is estimated to nearly quadruple between 2000 and 2050 to $379 billion, according to the 3in4 campaign. For people to qualify for assistance, like Medicaid, people must exhaust their life savings to get them down to the poverty level.

”My issue with that is in many states, Medicaid only pays for nursing homes,” Leveen said. ”When on long-term care insurance, you should look at that as a ‘nursing home avoidance policy.’

”The long-term care policy provide access to long-term care scenarios that are not nursing homes.”

The average long-term care cost is $37,440 a year for home care, $39,240 a year for an assisted-living facility and $85,775 for nursing home care, according to a 2011 John Hancock LTC Cost Study, Leveen said.

”Right now government dollars pay about 80 percent of all of the cost of long-term care,” she said. ”This is not sustainable economically.”

Leveen said the cost of care was less in West Virginia than in the averages quoted.

However, people do not plan for long-term care, she said.

Long-term care policies are usually bought by people around 57 years of age and, in many cases, are not collected on for 20 or so years.

One of the biggest complaints is the coverage is too expensive, Leveen said.

”When you collect from a policy, it is the equivalent of six months or less in premiums that you have paid in over the lifetime of that policy,” she said. ”When people tell me that long-term care coverage is expensive, I say no. What is expensive is hemorrhaging money and paying for care when it is unexpected.

”Unplanned care causes a family to teeter-totter … and a family is in a panic situation trying to figure out who has to be the caregiver or what assets might have to be liquidated.”