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In the Wake of the Jahi McMath Tragedy, Insurance Expert, Frank N. Darras, Offers Tips to Parents

A 13-year-old girl from California, Jahi McMath, is no longer inside the hospital where doctors declared her brain-dead after tonsil surgery last month. According to CNN, Children’s Hospital Oakland spokesman Sam Singer said last month, “No amount of prayer, no amount of hope, no amount of any type of medical procedure will bring her back. The medical situation here in this case is that Jahi McMath died several weeks ago.” (CNN, Brain-dead girl Jahi McMath released from California hospital, January 7, 2014)

The release of 13-year-old Jahi McMath’s body from an Oakland hospital Sunday night, January 5, is being hailed as a victory by her family, yet there has been public criticism and speculation about the decision. According to the LA Times in an interview with Rebecca S. Dresser, professor of law and ethics in medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, “Bodies of the brain-dead have been maintained on respirators for months or, in rare cases, years. However, once cessation of all brain activity is confirmed, there is no recovery.” (LA Times, Jahi McMath: Expert criticizes keeping girl on ventilator, January 13, 2014)

Media coverage of this tragedy highlights the importance of long-term-care insurance . Most people don’t think about purchasing it until they suffer a serious health problem and by then it’s too late to qualify. Long-term-care insurance can help when the worst happens, but the question is: Should you get it for your children? In this case, had the family purchased a long-term-care insurance policy, it would have covered some of the medical expenses for Jahi’s current situation. Based on the type of policy, a child can be added to the parents’ policy as a rider.

“No one is ever prepared for the death of their child and this case is particularly devastating,” says Frank N. Darras, American’s top insurance lawyer. “When considering long-term-care insurance or life insurance for a child, there are a lot of factors to think about. This circumstance goes to show that the worst can happen and having a policy in place can lighten financial pressure on grieving parents.

A policy for a child offers protection and is not a wasted expense. A child’s whole-life policy can be converted to an adult policy at age 21 without a medical evaluation. A child’s whole life insurance policy can also build cash value that can be used at a later date, whenever the adult child sees fit. It can be used to pay tuition, travel or even put a down payment on a home. The options are tax deferred and relatively endless. The cash value can be left in the policy to grow until retirement, another option, all of which should be discussed with an insurance expert.

Long-term-care insurance requires expert planning. Coverage can be specifically designed for the individual child. Start out with a low premium with the option to increase coverage in the future. Parents should always check with their insurance agents to make sure this is a sound decision both for them and for the child that will be covered under the policy.

“Many may think life insurance or long-term care insurance for a child is not needed since a person with dependents typically makes the purchase,” says Darras. “However, life insurance can be a financial safety net later in a child’s life, especially if they have serious health problems. In Jahi’s case, she had sleep apnea, a chronic condition that disrupts sleep. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to heart problems and require long-term management down the road, in which case, a long-term-care policy or a life insurance policy that built cash value, would help cover any ongoing expenses.”

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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