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How to buy long-term care insurance
Planning for your future involves more than saving in a 401(k). Consider insurance to provide for your health care needs.
By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's no surprise that healthcare costs are soaring. The cost of a nursing home today is about $71,000 annually, or about $200 a day. The cost for assisted living is about $32,000 a year or $88 dollars a day.

And home care price tags are up about 13 percent. The average hourly rate for home health aides is about $25, according to a survey by Genworth Financial.

In today's top tips, we'll tell you what you need to know about long term care insurance.

1: Consider your candidacy

The reason you buy long term care insurance is to protect your assets in case you need to pay for assisted living, home care or a nursing home stay. If you have over $250,000 or more socked away or maybe your parents live too far away for your own comfort, you may want to explore long term care insurance options.

Most people start looking into these policies in their 50s, when premiums are generally lower, says Matt McGrath of the wealth management firm Evensky & Katz. A 50 year-old may pay $2,000 for a policy, while a 70 year old could pay $8,000 or more.

Of course, if you've run through most of your assets, Medicaid will pay for care. If you've been diagnosed with having dementia, schizophrenia or if you use a wheelchair or a walker don't even bother applying, says Brian Peterson of NextGen Advisor. "No insurer will cover you," he says.

2: Be a smart shopper

Fewer and fewer insurers are offering long term care insurance. There were over 100 companies offering this insurance. Now there are only about 5 or 6 big players, says Fred Brock, author of "Healthcare for Less than you Think."

That's because it's not easy to predict what healthcare costs will be like. The company will need deep pockets. You're best bet is to go with a well known company. Make sure it has been in business for at least 15 years so that it has a proven track record when it comes to long term care, says Peterson.

You also want to make sure the company has not had to raise premiums drastically. As boomers age, more and more companies who haven't priced out premiums well enough are finding they need to adjust their figures higher. Get the details on their financial strength by going to rating companies like Moodys.com, standardandpoors.com, or Fitch ratings at fitchratings.com.

You should also get in touch with your state's insurance commissioner to see if there are any state regulations that govern the premiums.

3: Get the right policy

When you buy a long term care insurance policy, you'll also want to invest in an inflation rider. Healthcare costs are expected to increase increases between 5% to 7% per year. The average stay in a nursing home is about 30 months, so you may get a policy that will give you benefits for 3 years.

But if you think you're likely to need more insurance, you can get benefit payouts for 10 years or more...but your premiums could more than double.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.