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Buying long-term care insurance in your 70s? Do this to keep costs down, experts say

Business photo shows printed text Long-Term Care Insurance
There are some simple ways to keep the costs down if you're buying long-term care coverage in your 70s. Getty Images

As you enter retirement, you often want to reduce financial risk while keeping your costs down to avoid running out of money. One way to potentially accomplish both lower risk and lower overall cost is to buy long-term care insurance, considering that nearly 70% of people over 65 need some form of long-term care for an average of three years, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). 

Because Medicare and traditional health insurance do not cover most forms of long-term care, like a home health aide or assisted living facility, having long-term care insurance in your 70s can help pay for these costs. It can also help avoid you having to rely on unpaid support from family, which can drain their finances.

"As with all insurance, the younger and healthier you are when you purchase it will come with lower premium costs and more coverage options. The ideal age to buy long-term care insurance is 60, but if you are still healthy as you hit age 70-75, it could still be possible to buy a policy for higher premiums," says Chris Orestis, president of Retirement Genius.

Find out what the best long-term care coverage options are for you.

Buying long-term care insurance in your 70s? Do this to keep costs down, experts say

That said, there are steps you can take to keep costs down when buying long-term care insurance in your 70s. These include the following:

Reduce your benefit duration

Unlike health insurance, which typically has policy limits that renew each year, long-term care insurance policies instead provide coverage for a set number of years once qualifying events occur. So, choosing fewer years of coverage can lower long-term care insurance's price.

"I would start with reducing benefit coverage to a four-year timeframe since this will cover the average length of care needed for most seniors," says Eleanor I. Johnson, founding principal at Highland Capital Brokerage.

As she points out, the average length of long-term care needed for men is 2.2 years and 3.7 years for women, according to the HHS, so having a four-year benefit duration would be sufficient for many people.

Learn more about how the right long-term care insurance policy could benefit you here.

Choose a longer elimination period

Long-term care insurance policies typically have an elimination period, which is the length of time between when a qualifying event occurs and when coverage actually begins. And the elimination period you choose can affect rates.

For example, "instead of selecting a 90-day elimination benefit start, a 180 elimination would lower the cost," says Allen Haney, co-founder and president of The Haney Company.

Reduce the benefits

Although you might ideally want a higher benefit amount to reduce financial risk, a lower benefit amount can help with long-term care insurance costs.

"The cost for $2,000 per month, or commensurate daily benefit amount, is roughly half the cost of a policy with $4,000 per month of coverage. Don't let the perfect, higher amount get in the way of buying something to defray your costs," says John Hearn, market president of The Benefit Company, an IMA Financial Group company.

Limit extras

Long-term care insurance coverage can vary based on the specifics you choose when completing a long-term care insurance application, but it might not be worth including various add-ons or extras above what a basic policy covers.

"Many long-term care policies offer inflation options and other bells and whistles that add premiums to a plan. Removing some of these non-essential riders to make the plan affordable is better than having no coverage at all," says Hearn.

For example, "paying for an annual cost of living increase after 70 may not be as valuable," says Haney.

Choose a hybrid policy

Lastly, consider other insurance options besides standard long-term care insurance.

If you're healthy, consider buying a hybrid life insurance/long-term care insurance policy, or enroll in an annuity with a long-term care ride, which could pay out tax-free income if you can no longer keep up with two or more activities of daily living (ADLs, the standard for long-term care insurance coverage), says Orestis.

Although a combined policy can cost more than a standard one, you could get more value out of the plan, and you might save money if you were planning to buy separate ones.

The bottom line

While long-term care insurance costs tend to get more expensive in your 70s, it can still be worth it to get a policy, assuming you meet long-term care insurance eligibility requirements, which generally means being in relatively good health. From there, you can adjust different policy levers like the benefit amount, benefit duration, and elimination period to lower costs, along with looking into alternative coverage options.

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