Reading The CCRC Contract

The Secrets to Understanding Your Continuing Care Retirement Community Contract

If you are applying to a CCRC you will need to be familiar with the contract you will be required to review and sign. Read below to learn more information about what may be included in your contract.

What is a CCRC life care contract?

Often CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities also known as LifePlan communities) have more then one contract available for new members.  The entrance fee and range of offerings may be different for each contract type.  Ask to receive the fine-print detail contract for each contract type then sit and read them side-by-side so you know what the differences are.  Often this can be difficult to do, but it is a good area where a family attorney can come into play.  You can pay their hourly rate to read and determine the differences between the contract types.  After all, the CCRC's attorney wrote the contracts, you should be able to use your own attorney to interpret the contracts and any differences among them.

Check Your CCRC Contract For Special Rules

We know of one CCRC that listed in their contract that your Primary Care Physician (PCP) must have admitting privileges at the local hospital.  This requirement was a bit unusual but if seen once it could very well be seen again.  Check your continuing care retirement community contract to see if you have a similar requirement.

Your CCRC Financial Disclosure Form

CCRCs may ask you to periodically update your financial disclosure form every few years.  This helps them ensure your ability to pay your fees over the many years you plan to live at the CCRC.  CCRCs often have special financial aid funds such that if your financial ability wanes, they may be able to tap into this charitable fund to help you make up the difference.  Nothing is free, however, and you would be wise to make your first financial disclosure form as strong as possible by listing all your assets.  If your financial ability is in question before the CCRC admits you, they may pass on your application due to financial questions.

If You Injure Yourself Before You Move To Your CCRC

Once you sign the contract with your CCRC the game has not quite technically ended.  Most contracts have a provision that if you injure yourself before you move into the CCRC, the community can reverse their medical acceptance decision, return your refund, and ask you not to move in.  Here you see establishing residency while in the same health as you applied is important.  Thus, don't take too long to move in once you sign your contract.  The sooner you get there the better off you will be in terms of protecting your ability to use CCRC health care options.

CCRC Medical History And Financial Qualifications

When you apply to a CCRC you should expect to fill out both a medical history form and a financial qualification form.  The medical history form will be used to make sure you (and your spouse if applicable) are in generally good health.  CCRCs prefer to admit people in "independent living condition" so you can age in place following the CCRC concept.  The financial qualification form will help determine if you have ready assets to pay the entrance fee, if any, and ongoing monthly fees.  

With these CCRC applications, some also have an application fee.  A common fee runs about $500-$2000.  This fee covers the time needed to review your applications and is generally non-refundable.  

If you apply to a CCRC that has a long waiting list (of several years or more) ask if you can keep in touch with the CCRC by using the cafeteria or common area.  This way you can stay familiar with your future home until a spot opens up for you on the waiting list.

CCRC Medical Qualifications

The medical review is one of the steps you take when you apply to a CCRC.  The CCRC wants to make sure you can enter in independent living status and will not need to transition to assisted or nursing care too soon.  There are many different types of medical reviews you might face, and not all CCRCs use the same types.

You could be asked to fill out your own medical history form, and there may be a form for your doctor to fill out as well.  The CCRC may have one of their nurses talk to you on the phone, or the nurse may talk to your doctor as well.  There could be a physical exam on campus which could include watching you walk a certain distance, or even have a set of obstacles such as a small set of stairs.  The stair test could exist even if the campus is stair-free as the CCRC knows from time to time you will probably visit places off campus.  A CCRC could also make sure you can evacuate a building if there is a fire alarm and if you use a scooter you could be expected to take a scooter safety course.

If You Do Not Pass A CCRC Medical Review Try Another CCRC

If you don't pass the medical review for a particular CCRC do not give up.  The medical requirements for CCRCs can and do differ and not passing one review does not mean you will not pass another.  Type A facilities, or those that do not increase your monthly fee if you move to assisted or nursing care, will tend to have more stringent medical requirements.  If needed try to find a Type C facility, where your fee will increase if you move to a higher level of care.  Because you will be supporting the higher level of care the facility may have less stringent medical requirements.  We know of one Type C facility that had a self-disclosure form and a phone call with a nurse with no in-person visit.

State Oversight And Licensing Of CCRCs

Different states regulate CCRCs in different ways.  Some states use the insurance office or the office of elder affairs to have regulation oversight and even licensing power for CCRCs.  You may wish to issue a public records request to the office of oversight to see if there were any complaints or issues with a CCRC you are considering.  No facility is perfect, remember, so having a few issues may be common for CCRCs in a particular state depending on the issues at hand.

In the blog post above we discussed the contracts that CCRC's have their residents sign and the fees that are associated with living in their facility. Your medical history and qualifications will be an important part of the process of applying. There are different levels of care depending on the facility which will fit your medical needs.