UW Today

October 7, 2010

Workshop to address complicated issue of long-term care insurance

Health care reform may address a variety of current problems, but one that it scarcely touches is long-term care.

Two experts on long-term care insurance, one a broker and the other a recent columnist on aging for the Seattle Times, will present a workshop from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27. The workshop, hosted by the UW Retirement Association and UW Alumni Association, is not a promotional event and will not advocate specific products. The registration fee is $10; the workshop is open to UW employees, UW Retirement Association and UW Alumni Association members, and other UW constituents, as well as their partners or spouses.

You can register online. Registration closes Oct. 20. Individuals who wish to pay by check should contact the UWRA at retiremt@uw.edu  or call 206-543-8600.

Long-term care insurance is one of the most difficult and controversial issues faced by older adults or their children. “The most difficult thing about buying long-term care insurance is admitting you might be frail some day,” says Liz Taylor, one of the workshop presenters, founder and principal of Aging Well Consortium, who has written about aging for the Seattle Times. “Almost nobody is willing to plan or think about a time when they might become disabled enough to need assistance with their daily lives. Yet, on average we are living much longer than in the past, and we die of chronic diseases that can last years.”

One prevalent myth, Taylor says, is that the government will take care of people when they need care. “This is such a wrong concept that I criticize government for not having strongly disabused the public of this absurd notion.”

Long-term care insurance is complex, says Ken Story, the other workshop presenter, a partner with The Gjurasic/Story Group, LLC, a Seattle insurance agency specializing in this type of coverage. “Most insurance agents view this as the most complicated insurance product on the market.” Moreover, he says, many agents lack the proper training and experience to fully understand the subject. Long-term care insurance has a jargon of its own, difficult for the agent and the consumer to understand. And unlike other kinds of insurance, such as auto, home or life, this type of insurance is not heavily regulated.

Long-term care insurance policies differ greatly in price and coverage. “Individuals need to do their homework before they purchase,” says Story. “People need to understand how sick or disabled they must be before the policy will pay, and whether it will provide enough coverage. And they must look carefully at the price, so they buy something that is affordable not just now but well into the future.”

The two biggest reasons for considering long-term care insurance are protection of assets and assurance that you will not be a financial burden on others. “Accept the fact that you will have a health crisis some time in your life,” says Story. “There’s no time like the present to make plans on how you will deal with the financial and personal consequences of such a crisis.”