Long-term health-care plan vital for farm/ranch families

Farm Forum

Farm and ranch families fear health-care costs will devastate their finances, yet they often overlook long-term care when developing a plan to transition their business to the next generation.

Many families do not realize the probability of needing some form of long-term care in their lifetime, according to Lori Scharmer, family economics specialist for the North Dakota State University Extension Service. The reality is that one in two Americans older than 65 will have an extended nursing home stay.

Also, families have many misconceptions about who will pay for those costs and how business assets can be protected from long-term care costs.

Without a long-term health-care plan, a farm/ranch business is facing a potentially huge financial risk, Scharmer says. Long-term health-care costs have skyrocketed. For example, in North Dakota, the cost for a nursing home stay may be more than $99,000 per year.

“That’s why having a long-term health-care plan is an essential part of any succession and estate plan,” Scharmer says. “There must be planning to ensure the business transitions as the family desires.”

To assist North Dakota’s farm and ranch families in planning for long-term care expenses, NDSU Extension, in cooperation with University of Minnesota Extension, has developed a publication, “Long-term Health Care Planning for North Dakota Farmers and Ranchers.” This publication outlines what long-term care is, the statistics on the probability of needing long-term care, some of the terms involved, an explanation of the federal Medicare and Medicaid program qualification guidelines, and methods of paying for long-term care.

“The publication is a good overview of long-term health-care planning and a good place to start,” says Scharmer, who is one of the authors.

The publication is available through your local NDSU Extension office or online at http://tinyurl.com/Long-termHealthCare-NDSU.

“This topic is extremely complicated,” says Gary Hachfeld, a University of Minnesota Extension educator and co-author of the publication. “When you begin to plan for this area of your life, consider seeking the help of an elder law attorney.”

An elder law attorney focuses his or her law practice on the area of long-term health-care issues and Medicaid planning.

“Each individual has to decide how he or she will deal with long-term health-care costs if the need arises,” Scharmer says. “This is a personal choice, and every individual has a different set of circumstances. Don’t leave it to chance; have a plan.”