For nursing home care in the San Francisco Bay Area the average cost is approaching $9,500 a month for a semi-private room and as much as $10,320 per month for a private room. In some cases, such as where the resident is on a ventilator, the cost can approach $25,000 per month or more. Urban areas tend to be more expensive than rural areas in the state. Further, a long-term need for care can deplete even the best-planned estate. As a result, many seniors purchase long-term care insurance to cover this risk. One great advantage of this insurance is that most policies now cover home care and assisted living care as well as nursing home care, causing some insurance agents to describe it as “avoid nursing home” insurance.

Unfortunately, the industry is young and has gone through some growing pains. Until Congress began regulating the industry as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, many of the policies were poor, containing bars to coverage that could make them unavailable just when needed. Some companies that went into the business with great optimism have found that they were not making money and have gone out of the business. Others have put up roadblocks to claims on the policies. However, as the industry has improved, the more reputable companies appear to be the ones with staying power and having the insurance can be a lifesaver for a senior needing care, as well as for his or her spouse and children.

The biggest problem with policies now is the cost – the premiums being out-of-reach for most seniors in their late 70′s and 80′s – and the refusal of insurance companies to guarantee their rates. Another problem with long-term care insurance is that by the time many people look into purchasing policies, they may be uninsurable due to health problems. If you are uninsurable, you cannot purchase a policy. One solution to this problem, of course, is to purchase policies while you are young and healthy. The other solution is to shop around. Every company has its own underwriting criteria.

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