Corinne Berenson is a long-term care planning specialist for LTCR Pacific. She helps people understand and plan to mitigate the financial burden of having a long-term care event in their lives.
She sells life insurance and long-term care insurance products, offering a range of coverages based on affordability, and the specific needs of each client she works with.
The crucial first step in attaining this sort of coverage, Corinne says, knows you have to get it before you need it. “What people must understand is that they need to seek out this sort of coverage, like any insurance coverage, before the need arises.” She says. “If someone already has the need for long term care, they no longer qualify for insurance.”
Corinne says the clients who seek her out are the people who have become aware of the financial, logistical and family burdens that will be brought to bear in their lives if this sort of event occurs. Usually they have witnessed it happen to a close friend, or with their own aging parents. They see the hardship it can cause, and they realize they do not want to place that burden on themselves or their children.
When a couple becomes parents, they most often get their wills in order. They make sure they have life insurance. Some go the extra step of buying long-term care insurance. “But,” Corinne says, “the vast majority of people who reach out are living the experience through somebody else.”
Corinne goes on to say, “some people unfortunately reach out because they have the need, only to find out they don’t qualify because they are already in long-term care.”
For the people with the foresight to seek long-term care insurance, Corinne says the process is fairly straight forward. “First I determine whether potential client’s health qualifies, and whether it’s a financially appropriate product, which usually happens over the phone. If we move forward from there, we will meet face-to-face, and I will assess their unique situation and preferences. Do they want to be able to stay home during a long-term care event? Are they willing to go to a facility? Are they open to moving? If they have children, what kind of relationship do they have with them? How do they feel about their family members being involved in their care experience? Most people want to stay home, to maintain choices, to remain independent. They want to preserve their dignity. And they want to maximize their quality of care.”
“Those are the many issues that come into play.”
She concludes, “And they don’t want to go broke.”
“A lot of this has to do with protecting their spouse. They don’t want their experience to prematurely deplete their assets and then leave their spouse financially devastated.”
Once all these issues are understood, Corinne identifies the right insurance product.
“The most popular product is called Traditional Long-Term Care. This is designed to be used only for a long-term care experience. It’s a product you design yourself. You tell the insurance company how much you want them to pay you and for how long. You also tell them what level of inflation to put on the product. Its custom designed based on what you need and how much you can afford. And it’s used for what’s called custodial services. It does not take the place of health insurance or Medicare. Custodial care covers the costs of having someone come into the home and help with everyday activities like dressing or bathing, doing laundry and making meals.
“Another product that is gaining more popularity is called a Linked Benefit product. This provides a client both life insurance and long-term care. The concept here is that if the client never uses the product for long-term care, they still have a benefit for their family through life insurance.”
“A third option is primarily a life-insurance product, but you add a long-term care rider. This allows you to access your death benefits for long-term care. It’s a life insurance policy that has what’s called Living Benefits as well; not just death benefits.”
Corinne finds new clients from referrals by current clients as well as from other partners such as financial planners, estate planners and CPAs. It is during this time of focused planning that difficult topics such as these come to mind.
Still, Corinne says, most people who seek her out are those who are seeing someone close to them suffer through the financial and emotional burden placed on them by a loved one who has limited resources. Or, they have aging parents who are putting a burden on the family.
“They’re dealing with this and thinking, ‘oh my God, I am not putting my children through this. Maybe they are seeing their parents run out of money, or they’re even having to go into their own retirement savings to help pay for their parent’s care. Through some scenario, they are learning how expensive it can be to pay for long-term care and they’re realizing they don’t have that kind of money.”
“The most difficult part is making people realize that this can happen any day. It’s not solely for people who are old. And the good thing about getting this type of insurance before you’re nearing your retirement years is that you’re more likely to be healthy, and it can be much less expensive.”
Corinne says this is important to realize. “The challenge of getting young people, meaning people in their 40s, to consider long-term care is that they think they’re going to be paying for something they may not need for 30 or 40 years. What they don’t realize is the right kind of product has an inflation element built into it. So if you purchase an insurance product now, and put a 5% compound inflation on it, by the time you get to be 80 or 90, it’s going to be worth a fortune. And if you compare the amount of insurance you have to the amount you’ve paid in premiums, it’s only a fraction of what the policy is worth.”
Corinne wants people to think, “I’m putting money away for my retirement, and that money is not going to be depleted by long-term care because I’ve already taken care of that in a different way.”
“They call it Portfolio Protection Insurance,” Corinne says, “because when someone has an event, whether it’s a car accident, cancer, Parkinson’s, M.S., or if they simply grow old, there is a point at which the circumstances will become financially devastating.”
And this is not just for people to have for when they are elderly. There’s a statistic that states in the U.S., 40% of people who are living in a long-term care situation are between the ages of 18 and 64.
“Having the option to stay home is precious,” Corinne says. “But this option is hugely expensive. And if a spouse is still young, then they still have to go to work. And if you have grown children, they have their own families, they have their own financial burdens, and no one wants to become a burden to their children.”
Another complication to a long-term care scenario for aging parents is how it can affect the relationship among the siblings. “It causes a lot of stress on families. It causes stress on marriages. The circumstances are devastating by themselves, and if there is a financial burden, and a care giving burden placed on the family members, it makes the situation all the more difficult. “
“Without help, people have to make tough choices. If an aging parent needs care and lacks the resources to keep them in their own homes, then the family often has to sell the parent’s home in order to get the money to pay for care in a facility. These sorts of situations can tear a family apart. It’s truly devastating.”
Even with the seriousness of this possibility, the percentage of people who seek out this kind of insurance is surprisingly low. Only 10% of people in the U.S. own a traditional long-term care insurance policy. Many more people buy life insurance. “Everyone is sure they’re going to die,” Corinne says. “There’s no doubt about that. But they’re not certain they’re ever going to need long-term care.” But some sort of care at some point really should be considered practically inevitable.
It is because of this low percentage of participants that Corinne considers it her mission to get the word out about long-term care insurance. “Sometimes it’s a product that people are not even aware of.”
And a clear indicator that these sorts of insurance plans make sense is that the people who are in the business of insurance or financial planning or health care often own a policy of this sort for themselves and their families. They are aware of it because of their career choice, and did not need to see someone else suffer through it in order to see that it is such an important part of someone’s financial plan.
Corinne chose this career path after she saw her parents go through it, and she became aware that these sorts of plans were out there. She saw the opportunity to help people avoid so many of the devastating challenges of being in long-term care.
And she finds the work very fulfilling. “I’ve been writing policies for almost twelve years now. I’ve provided over 100 million dollars’ worth of protection in my communities. And I have had five people use their policies. The first client who needed her policy benefits was only 51 years old. And the way that policy saved that family was just an unbelievable experience for me. I knew I was doing something critical and rewarding. I’ve had another claimant who was 56, another who was 63. These are not old people.”
“I’ve been able to experience helping someone plan for the possibility, and then later help them receive the benefit. It’s very powerful.”
A person can also use a long-term care planning specialist for their insight into the care industry. “A lot of people ask me to recommend where they should consider moving their parent, or if I know of someone who is qualified to work in the home. “Just being involved in the industry has given me a lot of knowledge I can share.”
And being in this line of work has had an effect on her own life, as one might expect. She is a spinning instructor and a mat Pilate’s instructor. “I work out every single day. And I watch what I put in my body.” And she has provided herself with the peace of mind of knowing she has her own long-term care insurance policy in place. “My husband I purchased long-term care insurance when I was 49, when I first got into the business. I sell these products because I believe in them.”
And Corinne says it’s never too early to seek long-term care insurance. “If you’re in your 40s and can health qualify, you’re going to be able to find something. And the younger you are, the more affordable it’s going to be. As people get older, they become more aware that they need this, but it gets more expensive, and so some options become unaffordable for them.”
Corinne concludes, “The best way to find out about these sorts of plans, and to find someone qualified to help you, is to talk to your financial planner, or your CPA. Make it a part of your overall financial plan. You want to protect your children, but you also want to protect your own future, so that whatever happens, all of your retirement savings will be available for you to realize your retirement plans, and not be depleted by a long-term care event.”
Corinne Berenson is Long-Term Care Planning Specialist for LTCR Pacific, based out of Southern California. She provides policy reviews for clients all over the country. For clients too far away to meet with her in person, she delivers a Power Point presentation of insurance products over the internet to help clients learn how she can help them prepare for all the possibilities that may lie ahead, and give them the peace of mind that comes with feeling prepared.