In the meantime, cases like this demonstrate anew how vigilant families need to be. If your older relative has a long-term care policy, photocopy the page listing the company, policy number and claims contact information. Keep the insurance company updated on new addresses, yours (if you are the third-party designee) and your relative’s. It wouldn’t hurt, if the policyholder is becoming forgetful, to check bank statements or call the company to be sure premiums are paid.
Do your elderly loved ones have a long-term care insurance policy or something similar? If yes, then they likely are relying on it to cover the potentially catastrophic financial risk that is long-term care. If yes, then what happens if they forget to pay the premiums?
Do I have your attention now? If yes, then you will want to read a recent horror story in The New York Times – The New Old Age Blog titled “The Policy Lapsed, but No One Knew.”
Generally speaking, any form of “insurance” exists to help minimize various financial risk exposures to the insured. In essence, you pay a premium you can afford (and the insurance company will accept) to cover a risk you cannot afford. Once insured, you really only need to think about the much easier task of remaining insured, which usually means making timely premium payments.
Unfortunately for some families, remaining insured can sometimes present a few challenges uniquely associated with old age itself. What happens when the loved one begins to develop dementia and simply stops making the premium payments on the policy? Dementia is rather subtle before it becomes fairly dramatic. Accordingly, you may need to implement some financial safety precautions.
The terrible lesson coming out of the original article is how the caregiver/son was diligent, but a mistake by his father at the bank snowballed into missed payments and a lapsed policy. The worst part of the horror story is that the cancellation notice from the insurer was never received – and the family was unaware of the policy lapse until they went to claim its benefits.
Ultimately, the burden of proof was not on the insurer regarding whether the premium notice had been sent and received.
Will there be a legislative reaction to stories like these? It seems this case will not go anywhere soon, but there may be more like it across the country.
For additional information about long-term care and elder law topics in Houston, please visit my website.
Reference: The New York Times – The New Old Age (January 31, 2014) “The Policy Lapsed, but No One Knew”