Insurance functions best when it is used to cover high-cost low-probability risks – the kind that aren’t likely to occur, but would be devastating if they did. Technically, paying insurance premiums on an ongoing basis has a slightly greater expected loss than just retaining the risk, but an appealing trade-off if it means converting a potential financial disaster into a manageable ongoing premium.
Yet when it comes to long-term care needs in today’s environment, what was perhaps once a higher-cost lower-probability event has now turned into a very high-probability event with an increasingly large volume of “lower-cost” claims. As a result, long-term care insurance has begun to morph from effective insurance, into something that looks more like just prepaying long-term care expenses in advance at a high premium rate and with little insurance leverage.
As a result, perhaps it’s time to reform long-term care insurance policies so they once again focus on covering (only) high-impact low-probability events. For instance, what if elimination periods for long-term care insurance were increased to allow for a 2 or 3 year deductible, instead of today’s common 3-month period, and individuals could then take the significant premium savings and use it to cover their care during that time period? Could such an increase in deductibles reduce the cost of long-term care insurance coverage enough to make it affordable once again to most of the general public?