Tuesday, November 23, 2004

CHICAGO (November 23, 2004) - Though the cost of nursing home care now averages $56,000 a year, according to a fact sheet from the National Governors Association (NGA), the overwhelming majority of seniors don't purchase the insurance that could help them avoid such a financial burden. So says a recent study by Bankers Life and Casualty Company.

In it's Aging in America survey, conducted nationwide in 2003-2004 by Synovate, Inc., Bankers found that 30% of seniors believe they own long term care coverage. In fact, industry experts estimate less than 10 percent of seniors eligible for long term care insurance actually own it.

Sixty percent of seniors believe Medicare will cover long term care costs. In fact, Medicare usually covers only 100 days of skilled nursing care and only if it follows a hospital discharge. It does not provide for extended community or institutional care.

"It's true that many people, both seniors and their adult children, are confused about long term care insurance," said Dan Veto, Bankers senior vice president of marketing. "Often they are relying on Medicare, though it really covers long term care expenses only in certain circumstances and not for most people who need it."

Because of the high cost of nursing home care and assisted living, most people can benefit from buying a long term care insurance plan. Benefits vary from plan to plan but usually include the cost of skilled nursing in-home, nursing home costs, equipment prescribed by a doctor such as wheel chairs, general non-medical assistance, such as help with cooking, housekeeping and dressing, and other common needs for people with chronic illness or disabilities associated with aging.

"The wonderful thing about these policies," continued Veto, "is that many people find that if they can meet the costs of at-home care, they don't need to go into a facility at all. It allows them to be cared for at home, while retaining control of their lives."

Bankers, one of the largest providers of long term care insurance in the United States, found that the adult children of seniors are equally confused about long term care insurance. About 42 percent believe their parents have long term care insurance or are covered by Medicare.

Paying for long term care has created such concern for states' governors, the NGA declared it the Chairman's initiative for 2003-2004. "The combination of high life expectancy and increased rates of chronic illness paints a bleak picture for our nation's long term care system," said Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho, in his inaugural address to the NGA, in 2003. The governors believe the solution must be a private-public partnership.

Established in 1879 and headquartered at the historic Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Bankers Life and Casualty Company focuses exclusively on the financial security needs of seniors. The company offers a broad portfolio of health and life insurance and retirement savings products designed especially for seniors. These products are distributed through a national network of professionally trained company agents. Visit us online at www.bankers.com.

Contact: Linda Heacox