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Friday, March 25, 2011 9:47:48 AM

Long-term care costs a lot of money. But is long-term care insurance expensive? How much should I expect to pay for a long-term care insurance policy?

Costs of long-term care insurance vary significantly depending on your age and health when you apply, as well as the amount of coverage you want. Costs also vary from one insurer to another by as much as 80 percent a year.

Discounts which differ considerably among insurers can make your long-term insurance far more affordable than you may think. For example, discounts are offered when two spouses apply together. Some insurers will offer discounts to partners living together or a partial discount when only one person is covered. Also, there are various ways that single people or those living alone can reduce costs.

Costs increase based on your age. Each year, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance surveys insurers to determine ages for those purchasing coverage. For individuals purchasing coverage:

• 3.5 percent did so between age 35 and 44.

• 22.3 percent between age 45 and 54.

• 54 percent between age 55 and 64.

• 19.5 percent were age 65 or older.

While age is a factor, the ability to "health qualify" is what matters most. For instance, some pre-existing conditions can keep you from qualifying.

Any long-term care policy needs to be thoroughly examined before you buy it. Work with a long-term care insurance agent so you know what different carriers offer and what they charge.

The bottom line is to do your due diligence, just as you would before purchasing any insurance coverage. Investigate all your options. Discuss it with your employer, HR department, labor union or school, or any organization you belong to. Often, discounts are available for group memberships.

“The single greatest misconception held by consumers is the actual cost of coverage,” according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

“Studies that report average premium costs regrettably mislead the public into the perception that long-term care insurance is expensive. … Averages include large numbers of older buyers and other factors that result in higher costs. The fact is that many people pay far less than the average amounts released by industry sources.”

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Laura Adams is a personal finance expert and award-winning author who is Senior Insurance Analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com. She represents Bankrate Insurance’s web properties in the media and works as an advocate to make sure consumers protect their financial futures by having the right kinds of insurance.

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