Should you buy life insurance with a long-term care rider?

Using life insurance for long-term care (LTC) via a rider can provide some financial protection if you're no longer able to take care of yourself as you get older. Life insurance with an LTC rider will increase your premium, and if you tap into your policy's benefits while you're alive, there might not be much left for your beneficiaries when you pass. However, the life insurance and long-term care combo this rider provides may be an option for obtaining a long-term care benefit.

4 min to read

What is an LTC rider?

A long-term care rider is a type of life insurance rider that can be added onto your policy, allowing you to use part or all of the policy's death benefit for long-term care while you're alive. This rider can help you pay for your long-term care expenses that traditional health insurance doesn't cover, such as a home health care worker, long-term care facility, or a nursing home. An LTC rider doesn't pay for expenses covered by health insurance policies like doctor visits, hospital stays, or prescriptions.

If your insurer offers long-term care riders, you can typically add one to a permanent policy such as universal life insurance or whole life insurance. LTC riders aren't usually added to term life insurance policies, but check with your insurer to find out what's possible.

THE HIGH COST OF LONG-TERM CARE

Long-term care expenses are a growing concern for many Americans and their families. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average monthly cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home facility was $6,844.

How does life insurance with a long-term care rider work?

If you qualify for the long-term care benefit via your LTC rider, your life insurer may distribute up to the allowed amount, which may be set as a lump sum or as a percentage of your policy's death benefit each month. Monthly allowed amounts vary but could range from 1% to 4% of your death benefit. Most policies have a waiting period, usually around 90 days, before you can begin receiving the benefit.

Important note: Every payment you receive under your policy's long-term care rider will reduce your death benefit, leaving your beneficiaries with a smaller payout once you pass away. Bear this in mind while shopping for a life insurance policy with a long-term care rider.

How much does a long-term care rider cost?

The cost of adding a long-term care rider to your policy will vary by insurer and type of life insurance. When shopping for a life insurance policy, ask your prospective insurer for a quote with an LTC rider attached so you can compare rates between different providers.

How do I qualify for a long-term care rider?

It's possible that for a LTC rider to kick in and the waiting period to begin, two things might need to happen:

  1. A licensed health care professional must diagnose you with a qualifying chronic health condition.
  2. You must be unable to independently complete a certain number of daily living activities, which might include: eating, bathing, using the bathroom, dressing and undressing, moving around freely, and maintaining continence.

Your insurer may also have rules about which diagnoses can activate coverage under an LTC rider. Examples of conditions that require long-term care include:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Alzheimer's disease

How do I receive payouts from a long-term care rider?

There are two types of payouts you might receive: indemnity and reimbursement. If your policy provides indemnity payments, you get a set amount each month to use however you want. If you have a reimbursement plan, you submit receipts for your monthly bills, and the insurance company reimburses you for covered expenses.

LTC rider waiting periods and requirements

A waiting period determines when you can start using your benefit for qualifying long-term care costs. If your LTC rider has a waiting period based on calendar days, each day from the time you're diagnosed counts toward satisfying the policy's requirement. If the waiting period is based on days of service, only the days you receive LTC services count toward meeting the requirement.

Pro tip:

Before buying life insurance with an LTC rider, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully. Benefit amounts, qualifying conditions, waiting periods, and payout methods vary based on the insurer and policy you choose.

Are there any alternatives to long-term care riders?

Standalone long-term care insurance policies are an option, but they're expensive. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a long-term care policy worth $165,000 in coverage for a 60-year-old male costs an average of $1,175 per year. And unlike most life insurance, your premium will increase as you get older. Pre-existing medical conditions will also raise your rate. For those reasons, it's best to buy long-term care insurance as early as possible to offset the higher cost in your later years.

Additional alternatives to long-term care riders include:

  • Using your policy's cash value: If you have permanent life insurance with cash value, you could take out a life insurance loan against your policy's cash value to pay for your care. However, if you don't pay back the loan before you pass away, the amount borrowed will be subtracted from your death benefit, leaving your beneficiaries with a smaller payout.
  • Critical or chronic illness rider: A critical or chronic illness rider can pay for long-term care expenses if you have a permanent disability that prohibits you from performing two of the six basic activities of daily living, as defined by insurers and the medical community. Learn more about critical or chronic illness riders.

How to get life insurance with a long-term care rider

Get a life insurance quote online. You'll answer some questions; then you'll choose your payment amount, term length, and other policy details. You can also call 1-866-912-2477 to speak with a licensed representative who can help you find the right policy.

Get a free life insurance quote online in minutes

Learn more about life insurance policies.

Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. Read our editorial standards for Answers content. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.