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What should I look for in a long-term policy?

Figure out exactly what your policy will and will not buy. For example, if you buy coverage for home care, will you have to use an agency or can you hire an independent caregiver? If the policy covers assisted living, does it cover the cost of housing or only the care you receive? Also, ask the agent which facilities in your area the policy would cover - and which it wouldn't.

When comparing policies, factor in how many customer complaints each insurer has received. To check, phone your state insurance department or visit the Web site of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Also check out an insurer's history of premium hikes. Some state regulators can tell you about those. The fact that an insurer has imposed many price increases in the past, however, does not necessarily mean that it won't raise prices again. And one that hasn't raised rates still might.

Finally, you'll have to live with the policy you buy for decades, so choose a financially strong company. To figure that out, before you purchase a policy, ask the agent to give you the firm's latest financial strength grade from one of the major rating services, such as Moody's or Standard & Poor's. An A rating or higher from Standard & Poor's or an AA ranking or better from Moody's Investor Service is a good indicator of financial strength. To top of page

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