Annuities with Long Term Care Benefits

A frequent objection to the purchase of long term care insurance is that years of premiums may be wasted if long term care is never needed. Similarly, many prospective retirees are reluctant to invest in an immediate annuity because of a concern that they will die long before receiving a meaningful amount of annuity income. Insurance companies are now introducing products that are designed to address these purchaser concerns. One of the products is called a hybrid annuity with a long term care benefit or rider. Similar products are called long term care annuities.

How do these combined annuity and long term care products work? Each is different but the general concept is as follows:

A purchaser may be looking for a lifetime retirement income with additional protection if long term care is needed. The purchaser buys this hybrid annuity product with a single premium payment. The product functions exactly like a fixed annuity, providing a lifetime of annuity income. There is also a long term care multiplier built into the policy. In some cases, the long term care rider means the purchase would require medical underwriting, e.g, a health questionnaire and maybe a physical.  A portion of the internal investment return in the contract is used to pay for the long term care benefit. The long term care coverage is calculated based on the amount of coverage selected when the policy is purchased.

The insurance company may offer a payout of two to three times the initial policy value over two or three years after the annuity account value is depleted. For example, a purchaser of a $100,000 annuity who had selected a benefit limit 300% and a two-year long term care benefit factor would have an additional $200,000 available for long term care expenses, even after the initial $100,000 annuity policy value was depleted. The policy owner would spend down the $100,000 annuity value over a two-year period and then receive the additional $200,000 over a four year period or longer. In other words an annuity purchased with $100,000 could potentially payout LTC benefits of $300,000.

One feature that may make on of these hybrid annuity/long term care products attractive is a provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 that became effective on January 1, 2010. This provision allows long-term-care benefits to be paid from an annuity tax-free.

There are variable annuity products that also can include a long term care benefit. Generally, these products allow the owner to use the LTC benefit up until the time that the value of the annuity account is annuitized.

I think we will see more products that combine fixed annuity features with long term care benefits. The different products from different companies will probably carry a dizzying array of confusing features. Careful study and consideration of the costs and benefits will be important.


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