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Detroiters are dying too soon

Detroit shoreline
Detroit shorelinePhoto by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

If you live in Detroit, you're probably going to age faster and die sooner than in other parts of Michigan. In Detroit, you can be considered "elderly" as young as age 50, in terms of your health. A 2012 study conducted by Wayne State University's School of Medicine and the Detroit Medical Center (http://www.mi-seniors.net/publications.html) found that Detroiters are dying at a rate of 131% higher. Chronic illnesses typically found in individuals 60-74 are showing up in those 50-59, and preventable hospitalizations in the Detroit area are almost 2.5 times greater than outstate Michigan adults.

Up until this year, much of this could be attributed to the lack of access to health care, but with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, Detroiters now have access to health care that was either unaffordable or denied due to preexisting conditions. But a lot of this can also be attributable to the culture - fried foods, lots of salt, butter, and poor nutrition. The result is a high degree of obesity, which in turn brings on diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as hypertension, even in young children.

With better health care, many of these diseases will now be treated. But the damage may already be done, and this is where insurance, specifically life insurance and long-term care, take on a high degree of importance. Detroit ranks 6th in the country in percentage of single-parent homes (http://citydata.com); if that parent should die prematurely, or require care beyond what family members can provide, how will it be paid for? Many of the area nursing homes have reduced the number of Medicaid beds due to Medicaid payments barely covering operating costs. Assisted living or adult day care would allow family members to focus on their lives, but these facilities don't typically take Medicaid-eligible patients.

The answer may lie in an insurance product providing protection against both contingencies. Many companies today offer life insurance with a long-term care rider. The rider allows the owner of the policy to tap into the death benefit to pay for long-term care in any form, whether at home, assisted living, or nursing home. And, as so often happens, if the owner should die too soon, the family receives the death benefit free of income tax. The key is to start this planning before health issues become a problem. Unlike health insurance, there can still be exclusions or denials in the event of preexisting conditions and rates are typically 3 times what a healthy person would pay. A local radio ad reminds us that we are "just a doctor's visit away from being uninsurable." Take the time to investigate. The major life insurers have quote engines on their websites. To find a local agent to help you, go to www.naifa.org. Don't leave your loved ones searching for answers.