With so many Americans living longer, more military veterans will eventually need long term care. Deciding how to pay for this is tough, and like buying life insurance, it’s a benefit that we never really have to use. You might also think that your Tricare for Life Benefit will pay for long term care. According to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Long-Term Care Planning,” by Marilee Driscoll, Tricare pays nothing for long term care expenses, and the VA is of little benefit to middle class veterans. The truth is that you will likely need to supplement your Tricare benefit with additional money.
One way to pay for this is long term care insurance. The Federal Government has a program to provide effectively group coverage for military members, civil servants, and retirees who choose to participate. The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program website will help you get an idea of what the coverage will cost.
Experts agree that it’s important to add inflation adjustments to your plan. When I ran the numbers with and without the inflation adjustment the cost was 4 times as much. When you start a program like this one you are making a conscious decision to commit to insurance for life. Years of premium payments will be money that’s not piled up for retirement expenses or other uses. It’s similar to car or fire insurance. You hope you don’t need it, but you also never get your money back. (Return of premium coverage is available, but may not be worth the added cost. Carefully review your offers before signing up for the benefit.)
Some people are reluctant to sign up for long-term care programs because they are confident that Medicaid or Medicare will pick up their bills for care late in life. They might justify this sentiment by saying that they’ve paid taxes in over the years, and like Social Security, this is a benefit to which they are entitled. It has been suggested to me that facilities that accept Medicaid patients might not be the facility of choice when the time comes. You may want a wider variety of options if the need arrises.
Finally, there is one other consideration, your legacy. Your spouse might have to undergo agony twice, once during your time in long-term care, and after your death with the weight of the bills or the lack of assets. In addition, your heirs would also see their inheritance be obliterated by the costs of care in your final days. Long-term care insurance can protect you and those close to you. This fact may be enough to tip the risk scale in favor of paying for the coverage.