Do your homework before buying long-term care

Long term care insurance is a smart decision for many people. It helps pay for long-term nursing home care or for health care assistance in your home when you get older. But far too few people choose to buy it.

Here are some guidelines to follow if you are thinking of buying LTC insurance:

First, you only want to consider companies that have been rated “A++” (by A.M. Best), which means they are of the highest financial strength. It also means that they won’t jack up the rates after a few years and they will cover you for either in-home care or nursing home care.

Second, the prime age to buy is late 50s to early 60s. So if you have aging parents, talk to them about it.

Third, you should not buy LTC insurance if you are very wealthy or don’t have a lot of assets.

Fourth, shopping for LTC insurance may be simplified by contacting an independent agent who can shop quotes from a variety of companies for you. Companies like, and are all good starting points.

Finally, I used to say look for a policy with a lifetime benefit. But that’s become cost prohibitive. Now I say look for a five-year benefit with a six-month waiting period upfront.

Below is a list of companies that have been rated either A++ or A+ by A.M. Best.

Honor roll: A++

State Farm Life Insurance Co., USAA Life Insurance Co., Northwestern Mutual Life, New York Life and Mass Mutual

Honorable mention: A+

Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., John Hancock Life Insurance Co. and Prudential Insurance Co.

Note that USAA’s LTC offerings are brokered out to John Hancock, and Prudential sells group policies only.

Consumer expert Clark Howard's column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark's website.

-- Clark Howard -- Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs -- for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Follow Atlanta Bargain Hunter Nedra Rhone on Facebook | Twitter | Email