Life Insurance

The Average Cost of End-of-Life Care

Jan 26, 2022
grandfather and grandson walking
Financial experts regularly give out advice on how to plan for major life milestones, like your kids’ college education and retirement. But what about the cost of dying? Creating a financial plan for the final stages of life may not be fun to think about, but it can save a lot of headache and heartache when you and your family are already going through a tough time.

From end of life care to funeral expenses, it's important to be informed about how much it costs to die and how life insurance can provide your family with the necessary financial support.

What is the cost of end-of-life care?

In 2019, 10% of all healthcare costs in the U.S. were spent on end of life expenses, for a grand total of $365 billion. When someone becomes ill with a severe illness, they typically enter palliative care. This step is a precursor to hospice care, which typically begins when there’s a six-month life expectancy or less. Palliative care costs include things like managing symptoms and pain of a disease or chronic illness (such as cancer or heart disease). 

Medicare, however, doesn’t always cover at-home palliative care, especially when the individual isn’t in hospice with a limited life expectancy. There can be vast variation in costs, depending on what type of treatments are done as part of doctor visits or hospitalizations versus at-home care. Additionally, even if your health insurance or Medicare covers those palliative care treatments, you still likely need to pay a deductible and copay, all of which get more expensive as you age.

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Does insurance cover hospice care?

A patient enters hospice care when a doctor estimates a life expectancy of six months or less. The goal is to deliver as much quality of life as possible in those final weeks or months. In addition to managing pain and symptoms, hospice care may also include spiritual support. All of these services could take place either at home or at an inpatient center. One report estimates that the final month in hospice care costs an average of $17,845. How much does hospice cost per day? Estimates range from $150 for at-home care to $500 for inpatient care.

Some hospice care costs are covered by Medicare, including medical services and supplies, physical therapy, short-term inpatient care, and inpatient respite care. However, Medicare does not cover things like room and board or any treatments or drugs aimed at curing the disease. It also doesn’t cover emergency expenses like visits to the ER or ambulance rides.

How much does a funeral cost?

The average funeral cost is between $7,000 and $12,000. That adds a huge financial burden, especially if there’s already been a significant amount of debt accrued from palliative and/or hospice care. Plus, health insurance doesn’t cover any of these end of life expenses.

Here’s a funeral cost breakdown of what typically needs to be paid for:

  • Funeral home fee
  • Transportation of remains
  • Embalming and preparation for viewing or cremation
  • Hearse 
  • Casket
  • Funeral plot
  • Flowers
  • Memorial service
  • Headstone

There can be a lot of price variation depending on the type of services chosen. But suffice it to say, it’s difficult not to spend at least several thousand dollars on final funeral expenses.

Does life insurance help with end-of-life costs?

There are a few ways life insurance can help with end-of-life expenses, and it largely depends on the type of policy you have. Insurance policies offered through Ethos allow individuals to apply for either term or whole life insurance. Both offer a lump sum death benefit when the policy holder passes away. That doesn’t help with palliative or hospice care as those needs arise, but the money can help settle outstanding debts, including medical expenses, once the individual dies. Life insurance is also frequently used to cover those costly funeral expenses. 

Term life insurance is available in amounts ranging from $20,000 to $2 million, with terms ranging from 10 to 30 years. 

If you’re a senior between ages 66 to 85 and want more financial support during your lifetime, you could consider a whole life insurance policy. With whole life insurance, you’re covered until you die as long as premiums are paid. In addition to the death benefit, your policy accrues a cash value. As you age, you can either withdraw or borrow against your accrued cash value. There are downsides, however, including higher premiums and lower benefit amounts, ranging from $1,000 to $30,000.

Prepare for your final end of life expenses today by opening a term or whole life insurance policy.

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