NewsUSA) - With women generally outliving men, planning for long-term care becomes more urgent for them in their pre-retirement years. After all, while longevity definitely has its upside -- including more time to enjoy travel and family -- there's no denying its biggest potential downside: the increased risk of health problems that can make caring for oneself difficult. Today, seven in 10 nursing home residents are women. They also represent a whopping 76 percent of assisted living residents, according to the latest statistics, and two-thirds of all home-care recipients. And that care isn't necessarily what many would consider "affordable" -- unless you're perhaps lucky enough to have the opportunity to enroll in the likes of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). "Like other forms of health care, long-term care is expensive, and costs continually increase," says Paul Forte, CEO of Long Term Care Partners, which administers the FLTCIP. The program is specifically designed to help current and retired federal employees safeguard their retirement income and savings while maintaining their independence and avoiding reliance on their children. How Will You Pay for Care? The most recent John Hancock Cost of Care Study puts the national average cost of a licensed home health aide at $20 per hour, with private and semiprivate nursing home rooms going for $235 and $207, respectively, a day. Those costs aren't generally covered by health plans such as Medicare, the Defense Department's TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, or even the regular Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. And as for Medicaid, as Forte notes, "it covers long-term care only for those with very low income and assets, so the responsibility for paying may fall on you." Now suppose you're a woman who's eligible for the FLTCIP, but you haven't yet applied. Ask yourself these four questions: * Considering your health and family history, might you live a long life with health conditions that could hinder caring for yourself? * Do you live alone? * If you don't live alone, how might tending to you disrupt the professional and personal lives of others, and do you wish to be dependent on them? * If you do live alone, will you have the resources not just to pay for care, but to also maintain a comfortable lifestyle? The Advantages of the FLTCIP Established by an act of Congress in 2000 and overseen by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the program is tailored exclusively to meet the budgetary and lifestyle needs of what's referred to as "the federal family." And as so often is the case with the federal workforce, the cost to enrollees is surprisingly affordable. How affordable? Well, there's a choice of four prepackaged plans that combine the most popular program features, with customized plans also available. So, say you're a 45-year-old woman who chooses the FLTCIP's most popular prepackaged plan (Plan B, with the 4 percent inflation rider). You'd pay a biweekly premium of $33.90 -- less than $68 per month, or slightly more than $2 a day -- for protection that can save you thousands of dollars in future care costs. The program's consumer-friendly website lets you calculate the premium rate for your age and choice of plans (www.LTCFEDS.com/rate), and view current and past informational webinars (www.LTCFEDS.com/webinar). Personal consultants can also walk you through the entire process, including plan design and applications, by calling 1-800-582-3337 or 1-800-843-3557. Again, not everyone is eligible for FLTCIP, and certain medical conditions, or combinations of conditions, will prevent some from being approved for coverage. Premiums are set with the expectation that they'll suffice, but aren't guaranteed. While the group policy is in effect, OPM must approve an increase in premium.