Recent studies are showing that people just don’t get it when itcomes to the potential cost of health care during retirement. And one factor they’re notconsidering is how much long-term care could cost them—particularlysince it varies widely depending on where in the U.S. theylive.

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In an effort to make people more aware of the potential costs oflong-term care—something that’s in very few retirees’budgets—Lincoln Financial has launched a website thatprovides current national average costs for various levels oflong-term care.

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While it’s already widely known that health care expenses cancripple a retiree’s budget—recent figures from the GovernmentAccountability Office are said to be too low, by a considerablemargin, by HealthView Services, which provides data on retireehealth care costs—the full extent of the cost of staying alive longenough to have a retirement can be very high.

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Despite the fact that the retirement industry generallyconsiders it essential that retirees have enough savings to replacebetween 70–85 percent of preretirement income, and the Departmentof Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration uses a figureof 80 percent, HealthView says government figures are far toolow.

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It pointed out in a recent report that the GAO projected anannual health care cost of $14,000 for a 65-year-old, but added,“If he plans to retire at age 65 and uses an 80 percent IRR [incomereplacement ratio], he will face a shortfall of $127,299 inretirement health care costs (to cover Medicare Parts B, D, andsupplemental plan F).”

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Now here’s the scary thing: even HealthView isn’t including thecost of long-term care in its estimates. Average costs for that, according toan ASPE issue brief from the Office of Disability, Aging andLong-Term Care Policy, can run $138,000.

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That amount could be financed, the report said, “by settingaside $70,000 today.” Yeah, right.

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Considering that long-term care can break the bank in a singleyear, depending on where a person lives, people really need to bepaying more attention to this factor when considering potentialretirement locations.

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Scared yet?

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Well, here’s a look at the 3 most expensive states and their 3cheapest counterparts, with hourly costs for care for a home healthaide (the least expense one might expect to have in receivinglong-term care) and yearly costs for a semiprivate room in askilled nursing home (the most expensive level of care).

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Bear in mind that while the ASPE brief cheerfully predicted that“most will need assistance for less than two years,” consider howmuch of a dent only two years’ worth of care will put in yourretirement savings.

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If that doesn’t make you think, probably nothing will. Here's alook at LTC costs for expensive versus cheap states:

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In this photo taken Aug. 13, 2011, Jean Lynch, right, spends time with her mother Hazel Eng, 89, at the Ecumen nursing home in North Branch, Minn.(AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

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1. Expensive vs. cheap: Minnesota and Connecticut vs.Louisiana and Texas

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The most expensive state for a home health aide, by the hour, isMinnesota, where the hourly rate is $29. In contrast, a personreceiving care from a home health aide in Louisiana could expect topay $17 per hour.

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Now if that person ends up in a skilled nursing home, asemiprivate room will cost $151,110 if that nursing home happens tobe in Connecticut. If, on the other hand, they live in Texas, ayear in a nursing home will set them back $56,940.

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Oh, and bear in mind that this is for a semiprivate room.Private rooms cost more, of course.

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Joe Levesque sits with his 75-year-old mother, Theresa Levesque, at the Wingate nursing home in Haverhill, Mass., Thursday, June 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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2. Expensive vs. cheap: Alaska and Massachusetts vs.Mississippi and Oklahoma

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The hourly rate one might expect to pay for a home health aidein our northernmost state of Alaska is a still-hefty $28—justbarely cheaper than in Minnesota. On the flip side, a person with ahome health aide in Mississippi will pay the same as in Louisiana:$17 per hour.

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For a year in a skilled nursing home, Massachusetts is thesecond most expensive state in the country, at $138,335, while thesecond cheapest state in which to receive such care is Oklahoma—at$58,400 per year.

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Music therapist Jennifer Trippe sings to residents of a Millbrook, Ala., assisted living home Friday, Jan. 25, 2008.(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

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3. Expensive vs. cheap: North Dakota and New York vs.Alabama and Arkansas

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North Dakotans can expect to pay a pricey $27 per hour for ahome health aide to care for them long term, while in Alabamasomeone will perform that service for a much cheaper $19 perhour.

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When it comes to nursing homes, New York’s price for a year’scare comes to $135,780. A year spent in an Arkansas nursing home,on the other hand, will run “just” $59,495.

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