Costs of Some New Long-Term Care Insurance Policies Going Down in 2018

While long-term care insurance costs are up in general, some policies are going down in 2018, according to the 2018 Long Term Care Insurance Price Index, an annual report from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), an industry group.

A married couple who are both 60 years old would pay an average of $3,490 a year combined for a total of $333,000 of long-term care insurance coverage when they reach age 85. This is down from 2017, when the association reported that a couple could expect to pay $3,790 for the same level of coverage. Jesse Slome, the AALTCI’s director, cites two reasons for the change: “There are fewer insurers offering traditional long-term care insurance policies currently and some of the higher priced insurers sell so few policies that we excluded them from this year’s study as they really were not representative of the market conditions.”

Rates for single men and women have gone up in 2018, however. A single 55-year-old man can expect to pay an average of $1,870 a year for $164,000 worth of coverage, up from $1,665 in 2017. The same policy for a single woman averages $2,965 a year, up from $2,600 in 2017. Overall, women still pay more than men.

One thing that remains the same year to year is the importance of shopping around. The survey shows that costs for virtually identical policy coverage vary significantly from one insurer to the next.

This year’s index compares policies sold in Illinois and was conducted in January 2018.

For the association's 2018 index showing average prices for common scenarios, go here: http://www.aaltci.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-Price-Index-LTC.pdf

 

Planning for a Child with Special Needs

Americans are living longer than they did in years past, including those with disabilities. According to one count, 730,000 people with developmental disabilities living with caregivers who are 60 or older. This figure does not include adult children with other forms of disability nor those who live separately, but still depend on their families for vital support.

When these caregivers can no longer care for their children due to their own disability or death, the responsibility often falls on siblings, other family members, and the community. In many cases, expenses increase dramatically when care and guidance provided by parents must instead be provided by a professional for a fee.

Planning by parents can make all the difference in the life of the child with a disability, as well as that of his or her siblings who may be left with the responsibility for caretaking (on top of their own careers and caring for their own families and, possibly, ailing parents). Any plan should include the following components:

  • A plan of care that carefully establishes where the child with special needs will live, who will be responsible for assisting the person with special needs with decision making and who will monitor the person with special needs’ care.  It will help everyone involved if the parents create a written statement of their wishes for their child’s care. They know him better than anyone else. They can explain what helps, what hurts, what scares their child (who, of course, is an adult), and what reassures him. When the parents are gone, their knowledge will go with them unless they pass it on.
  • At least one type of special needs trust.  In almost all cases where a parent will leave funds at death to a disabled child, this should be done in the form of a trust. Trusts set up for the care of a disabled child generally are called “supplemental” or “special” needs trusts.  Trusts designed to aid a person with special needs are commonly known as “special needs trusts”.  There are three main types of special needs trusts: the first-party trust, the third-party trust, and the pooled trust. All three name the person with special needs as the beneficiary, but they differ in several significant ways, and each type of trust can be useful in its own way.  Choosing a trustee is also an important issue in supplemental needs trusts. Most people do not have the expertise to manage a trust, even if they are family members, and so a professional trustee may be a wise choice. For those who may be uncomfortable with the idea of an outsider managing a loved one’s affairs, it is possible to simultaneously appoint a trust “protector,” who has the power to review accounts and to hire and fire trustees, and a trust “advisor,” who instructs the trustee on the beneficiary’s needs. 
  • Life insurance.  A parent with a child with special needs should consider buying life insurance to fund the supplemental needs trust set up for the child’s support. What may look like a substantial sum to leave in trust today may run out after several years of paying for care that the parent had previously provided. The more resources available, the better the support that can be provided the child. And if both parents are alive, the cost of “second-to-die” insurance–payable only when the second of the two parents passes away–can be surprisingly low.

For more on special needs trusts and special needs planning, visit our SpecialNeedsAnswers Web site at www.specialneedsanswers.com. While some ElderLawAnswers attorneys practice in this area of the law, all attorneys listed on SpecialNeedsAnswers devote a significant part of their practices to working with individuals with special needs and with their families to plan for the future.

Three Reasons Why Giving Your House to Your Children Isn't the Best Way to Protect It From Medicaid

You may be afraid of losing your home if you have to enter a nursing home and apply for Medicaid. While this fear is well-founded, transferring the home to your children is usually not the best way to protect it.

Although you generally do not have to sell your home in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care, the state could file a claim against the house after you die. If you get help from Medicaid to pay for the nursing home, the state must attempt to recoup from your estate whatever benefits it paid for your care. This is called “estate recovery.” If you want to protect your home from this recovery, you may be tempted to give it to your children. Here are three reasons not to:

1. Medicaid ineligibility. Transferring your house to your children (or someone else) may make you ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time. The state Medicaid agency looks at any transfers made within five years of the Medicaid application. If you made a transfer for less than market value within that time period, the state will impose a penalty period during which you will not be eligible for benefits. Depending on the house’s value, the period of Medicaid ineligibility could stretch on for years, and it would not start until the Medicaid applicant is almost completely out of money.

There are circumstances under which you can transfer a home without penalty, however, so consult a qualified elder law attorney before making any transfers. You may freely transfer your home to the following individuals without incurring a transfer penalty:

  • Your spouse
  • A child who is under age 21 or who is blind or disabled
  • Into a trust for the sole benefit of a disabled individual under age 65 (even if the trust is for the benefit of the Medicaid applicant, under certain circumstances)
  • A sibling who has lived in the home during the year preceding the applicant's institutionalization and who already holds an equity interest in the home
  • A “caretaker child,” who is defined as a child of the applicant who lived in the house for at least two years prior to the applicant's institutionalization and who during that period provided care that allowed the applicant to avoid a nursing home stay.

2. Loss of control. By transferring your house to your children, you will no longer own the house, which means you will not have control of it. Your children can do what they want with it. In addition, if your children are sued or get divorced, the house will be vulnerable to their creditors.

3. Adverse tax consequences. Inherited property receives a “step up” in basis when you die, which means the basis is the current value of the property. However, when you give property to a child, the tax basis for the property is the same price that you purchased the property for. If your child sells the house after you die, he or she would have to pay capital gains taxes on the difference between the tax basis and the selling price. The only way to avoid some or all of the tax is for the child to live in the house for at least two years before selling it. In that case, the child can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a couple) of capital gains from taxes.

There are other ways to protect a house from Medicaid estate recovery, including putting the home in a trust. To find out the best option in your circumstances, consult with your elder law attorney. 

GOP Tax Plan Could Deal Blow to Seniors Paying for Long-Term Care

The tax plan put forward by the Republican-led House of Representatives would eliminate many current deductions, and getting rid of one of them in particular could deal a serious financial blow to seniors and individuals with disabilities. The plan proposes eliminating the medical expense deduction, a change that will especially affect those needing long-term care.

Currently, taxpayers can deduct certain medical expenses from their income taxes if the expenses add up to more than 10 percent of adjusted gross income. These expenses can include health insurance premiums, deductibles, nursing home fees, home health care costs and even assisted living fees, if a doctor certifies that the individual must live in the facility due to health care or cognitive needs.

While most taxpayers don't have health care expenditures exceeding 10 percent of their income, many seniors and others with disabilities do. According to the IRS, 8.8 million households — almost 6 percent of tax filers — claimed medical deductions in 2015. The AARP estimates that 74 percent of those who take the deduction are age 50 or over and half have incomes of $50,000 or less. 

“It tends to be mostly … older people who do not have long-term care insurance, and end up in a nursing home,” Richard Kaplan, a professor who specializes in tax policy and elder law at the University of Illinois College of Law, told CNBC. “For people who are receiving long-term care and are paying for it themselves, this is going to be a huge deal.”

For them, having the deduction can mean that they do not run out of funds and have to rely on Medicaid, or are at least able to postpone applying for Medicaid. Eliminating the medical expense deduction will likely mean that more people will spend down their assets more quickly, requiring them to apply for Medicaid. In addition, adult children who pay for their parents' care can sometimes use the deduction. For more information about how ending the medical deduction might affect you, click here.

In addition to eliminating the medical expense deduction, the tax bill cuts corporate tax rates. The bill’s proponents argue that the tax changes will unleash huge economic growth that will result in higher tax revenue. However, if the bill’s supporters are wrong and the growth in tax revenues is not as large as hoped, the reduction in tax revenues will likely cause sharp cuts in government spending or an increase in budget deficits, or both. A reduction in spending could affect seniors and individuals with disabilities through cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Section 8, Meals on Wheels, and food stamps.

The tax proposal would benefit a small number of wealthy seniors by eliminating the estate tax. Under the proposal, the estate tax exemption will be increased from $5.45 million to $10 million for individuals dying in 2018 through 2023. After 2023, the estate tax will be eliminated completely. The Tax Policy Center estimates that only about 0.2 percent of estates pay any federal tax under current rules.

The House’s tax plan is not final, and the Senate plan preserves the medical expense deduction.  The two bills, if passed, must be reconciled.

For an AARP fact sheet on Medicare beneficiaries who spend at least 10 percent of their income on out-of-pocket medical expenses, click here.

HOME FUNERAL RIGHTS IN OHIO

Funerals can be very expensive. You can avoid the greatest expense by simply not having a service at a funeral home. However, there are other things that need to be done that require the services of a funeral home. The law makes it very difficult to avoid using a funeral home. The first problem will be to decide where to transport the body of the deceased. If you cannot immediately arrange for a burial, which requires you to have a death certificate and burial or cremation permit, the body needs to go somewhere. This is generally done by a funeral home which will have facilities to store the body temporarily. The family will be under some pressure to move the body since most locations (e.g., nursing facility, home or other community location) cannot just keep the body for any period of time. A hospital or nursing facility might have a refrigeration unit for storage. A funeral director is authorized by Ohio law to arrange for the issuance of the death certificate. It is very difficult to do both of these things by yourself.

The procedure below outlines how you can make all these arrangements yourself under Ohio law. See my webpage on funeral planning for other suggestions on how to save money on a funeral. Click here http://www.michaelmillonig.com/practice-areas/funerals-burial/

1. The funeral director or “other person in charge of final disposition” must register the death with Ohio County Bureau of Vital Statistics. The death certificate form is issued and must be signed by the attending physician or coroner. O.R.C. §3705.16. If a funeral home is not preparing the death certificate, then you need to contact the Ohio Dept. of Health, Vital Statistics, in Columbus to get the death certificate. You cannot contact the local County Dept.

2. Call the County Coroner to report the death if the person died as a result of a crime, casualty, suicide, child under age 2, developmentally disabled person, or death in any suspicious or unusual manner. O.R.C. §313.12. If no funeral home is involved and/or you are going to have a home funeral, it is probably best to call the Coroner or ask the hospital or nursing home to call the Coroner.

3. Call a funeral home for transport to a cemetery or crematory. If you do not want to use a funeral home, call an Ambulance Service which may be willing to transport the body to a cemetery or crematory. You will need to have the burial or cremation permit.

4. Obtain a burial or cremation permit from the County Bureau of Vital Statistics. O.R.C. §3705.17 & O.R.C. §4717.22. The death certificate must be issued first.

5. Make cemetery arrangements for burial or cremation.

6. Plan a memorial service at a community facility or family residence or a grave site/cemetery service. You do not need to use a funeral home. The right for a home funeral is preserved in Ohio law. O.R.C. §4717.12.

Social Security Beneficiaries Will Receive a 2 Percent Increase in 2018

In 2018, Social Security recipients will get their largest cost of living increase in benefits since 2012, but the additional income will likely be largely eaten up by higher Medicare Part B premiums.

Cost of living increases are tied to the consumer price index, and an upturn in inflation rates and gas prices means recipients get a small boost in 2018, amounting to $27 a month for the typical retiree. The 2 percent increase is higher than last year’s .3 percent rise and the lack of any increase at all in 2016. The cost of living change also affects the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, which will grow from $127,200 to $128,700.

The increase in benefits will likely be consumed by higher Medicare premiums, however. Most elderly and disabled people have their Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security checks. For these individuals, if Social Security benefits don't rise, Medicare premiums can't either. This “hold harmless” provision does not apply to about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries: those enrolled in Medicare but who are not yet receiving Social Security, new Medicare beneficiaries, seniors earning more than $85,000 a year, and “dual eligibles” who get both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. In the past few years, Medicare beneficiaries not subject to the hold harmless provision have been paying higher Medicare premiums while Medicare premiums for those in the hold harmless group remained more or less the same. Now that seniors will be getting an increase in Social Security payments, Medicare will likely hike premiums for the seniors in the hold harmless group. And that increase may eat up the entire raise, at least for some beneficiaries.

For 2018, the monthly federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment standard will be $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple.

For more on the 2018 Social Security benefit levels, click here.

Getting your parent back into the dating scene

How to help a parent back into the dating scene

There is no way to deny that millions of people are getting divorced or, sadly, losing a spouse to old age or accident. There has historically been a mild taboo associated with people who reach their senior years dating. It has been frowned upon to see people of a certain age looking for love and romance again — but this is no longer the case and there are many reasons why you should encourage your single parent to date again. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips to help your parent get back into the swing of things.

Make them feel comfortable about it

The best thing to do at first is to tell them that you are perfectly fine with them dating again. Tell them that the idea of seeing this as a bad thing is no longer something that your generation believes and even millions of adults who grew up seeing that as a bad thing are now adapting to the modern world. Also, mention how you feel that they deserve a chance to be happy again with someone else. This is a great way to start and make them feel comfortable about the whole situation.

Introduce them to dating sites

There is a world of new dating sites that are specifically targeted for senior citizens to use. These sites are very confidential and they screen their users to make sure that they are not posting fake profiles on those sites. Give them the names of reputable and useful dating sites so that they will consider using them without fear of being involved in something that is not safe and secure.

DatingAdvice.com has a good review of the top online sites for senior dating, and explain their methodology behind how they ranked them.

Give them a rundown on the benefits of online dating

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that it has become quite common now for people to use dating sites and it’s no longer something that only “strange” people do. Now that the world is so hectic, the use of this sort of dating network is extremely common amongst professionals and people with high moral values.

They will also avoid the hassles and the awkward moments of having to go out and meet people just to get to know if there is a connection at a basic level. With dating sites, they get to know the basics about a person through the use of chat or with their profile bio and this saves them time and it keeps them from experiencing those embarrassing moments.

Conclusion

Dating sites are no longer seen in the same light as they used to be seen. They are now part of our culture and they are perfectly acceptable as a legitimate way to get to know people. This is the reason why their popularity has grown significantly in the last few years and your single parent deserves to have the chance to find someone that they can share their lives with.

 

fall activities for seniors and kids

Fall Activities for Seniors in Southwest Ohio

It’s hard to imagine that summer officially ended two weeks ago (particularly since we’ve been seeing highs that are 5-10º above average for the last several weeks), but it’s true: autumn is here. But thankfully, there are all sorts of fall activities that are perfect for senior citizens. And this is a great opportunity to get outside and engage in some light exercise — at least walking around and getting a little active before the sedentary days of winter set in.

Here in southwest Ohio, there are lots of options. Better, with two big autumnal holidays, there are lots of great opportunities to get out and do things with the grandkids, whether it’s a Pumpkin Show or a Zombie Walk (scroll about halfway down, to October 22nd, and maybe check out some of the other fall activities in Marietta-Washington County while you’re there).

Another great site to check out for fall festivals around Ohio is the Ohio Traveler site, that has lots of options from haunted houses, to hay rides, to corn mazes — all great activities that seniors and kids can do together.

If you’re looking for something a little more local, check out any of these for a great adventure:

The Sugarcreek Metropark Orange Trail is an amazing natural wonder that we have right here in our backyard. If you’re up for a relatively easy hike, it just might be one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. Not only is the covered walk under the trees something beautiful to behold on its own, but on the trail, you’ll discover the Three Sisters — a pair of white oaks that, at more than 550 years old, predate Columbus coming to the New World!

For a little more lively action, check out the Old West Festival, in Williamsburg, just outside of Cincinnati. If you’re over the age of 60, you almost certainly saw these kinds of shows as a kid — sheriffs and outlaws, gunslinging their way through the old west. Here’s your chance to introduce your grandkids to all that fun, right here near home.

If you’re looking for something to do immediately, this weekend, then here’s something that you may not expect: the 47th annual Ohio Sauerkraut Festival. Yep, you heard me right: sauerkraut. And it’s not just for sausages. You can try sauerkraut pizza, sauerkraut mac ‘n cheese, and sauerkraut … brownies? Really, the options defy the imagination.

And if somehow you still haven’t found the right fall activities to fill your schedule between now and the first snowfall, take a look at the Senior Citizens’ Guide to Southwest Ohio — you’re bound to find something there.

Last but not least, if you have any great events that are coming up this autumn and you think would be perfect for seniors, or seniors and their families, by all means — leave a message in the comments!

two elderly men walking through a park

Marching in May — Activities for The Elderly

Following on to my popular post of activities you can do with your elderly relatives in April, here’s my list of activities for the elderly this May. There’s a bunch of great stuff happening — some of it one time, some of it recurring — so you’ll have ample opportunity to grab your parents or grand parents, and get up and go!

May 5th, Dayton, First Friday — happens the first Friday of every month, so if you miss it in May, you can try again as long as the weather holds out. The exact details are different every month, but it generally includes a bunch of open art galleries, along with street performances, so it’s a great walking tour. You can download the latest month’s details from downtowndayton.org.

May 6th and 7th, Dayton, Brahms Festival — the Dayton Philharmonic has a couple of great events happening in May, including their Brahms festival. If classical music is more up your alley than walking around downtown, it’s worth checking this out. Also, seniors get a discount.

May 7th, Oxford, Red Bricks and Roses — everyone loves a parade! Instead of just the big-deal Independence Day parades, why not check out something a little more low-key, and a little more nostalgic. The parade is at 2PM, but there are activities starting as early as noon in downtown Oxford. The best part? The entire parade is horse-drawn carriages!

May 13th and 14th, Dayton, Best of Broadway II — symphony for those who don’t prefer the symphony. A few years ago, the Dayton Philharmonic hosted a “best of broadway”, and it was a rave success. This year, they’re doing a follow up, Best of Broadway II. It’s chock-full of show tunes that your elderly relatives are sure to love, from Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific, Hello, Dolly, and many, many more — all the way up through modern-era broadway hits like Jersey Boys and Wicked.

May 20th and 22nd, Dayton, The Book Collector and Carmina Burana — that’s right … a double-feature opera! If the Dayton Philharmonic didn’t meet your needs with either the classics of Brahms, or the Best of Broadway, check out this double feature, including the famous opera Carmina Burana, and the world premier of The Book Collector. The Sunday show is a matinee, starting at 3PM. Both shows have a talk, starting an hour before hand, and both offer senior discounts.

May 20th-28th, Cincinnati. It seems that May is full of music! Most of the entries this month have been from the Dayton Philharmonic, but it’s worth the trip to Cincinnati to check out their May Festival.

May 21st, Miami County Fairgrounds, Gourmet Food Truck Competition — in case you missed it, the nation has been overwhelmed by gourmet food trucks. Mostly, this phenomenon started off in LA, and quickly spread to San Francisco and New York. But now, it’s accessible right here in Ohio. And what better way to experience it then getting all the best of them together at once. Check out the fairgrounds from 11AM to 9PM. Admission is free (though the food isn’t).

May 27th-29th, Springfield, Swap Meet — some people are into art. Some people are into music. And some people are into cars. If your elderly relative falls into the latter group, check out the spring Springfield Swap Meet and Car Show. They’ll love it!

May 28th-30th, Cincinnati. The Taste of Cincinnati. Enough said. OK, maybe not enough — it’s a great “taste” food festival, without being as crazy as the Taste of Chicago. A great way to spend they day walking around, getting a little bit of exercise, and enjoying great food and great people watching.

Recurring Events

Every Saturday (through the end of they year) — if your relative is an old-school aviation buff, then this is just the treat. Every Saturday, you can watch volunteers at the Champaign Aviation Museum work on restoring a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. And there are plenty of other things to see at the museum (and it’s open other days, too, but this is far-and-away the coolest thing they’re doing).

collage of aerial views of Dayton from 1870 an 2008

Ask Your Elders about Earth Day

Earth Day isn’t exactly an ancient holiday. In fact, if you’re a reader of this blog, then you are almost certainly old enough the very first one: April 22nd, 1970.

It’s “only” been 45 years since that first Earth Day. In some contexts, I suppose, 45 years is a very long time — but to many of us, it doesn’t really seem like that long of a time, at all. Still, 1970 was shockingly different than is 2015. And in many ways the same. The height of the counterculture movement and dissatisfaction with government and the war in Vietnam culminated in the tragedy at Ohio’s very own Kent State University; Jimi Hendrix died, and the last Beatles album was released.

Earth Day was inspired by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, which caused Senator Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, to take action. The action he took was to channel the sense of civic responsibility of the time, and ultimately, before the year was out, create the Environmental Protection Agency and pass the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. For really the first time ever, the environment was front-and-center on the nation’s agenda.

Why not use today’s Earth Day celebration as an opportunity to talk to your elderly friends and relatives about how much times have changed — and how much they haven’t. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn exactly how much of both are true.

The cover image for this post is a collage of “Dayton 1870” a public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons and “Dayton” by redlegsfan21 (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.