As an elder law attorney, I regularly suggest to my clients that they investigate purchasing long-term care insurance as a hedge against the cost of costs associated with aging, especially if they have any interest in planning for the cost of long-term care and asset protection. I still think it's generally a good idea. However, one thing that purchasers should be mindful of is that there is no guarantee that the price of the premium will remain the same over time or that they will even be able to get coverage at an affordable rate.
In the last two years, several major insurers, including MetLife, Prudential, and Allianz, have stopped selling policies; while others, like Genworth, are significantly restructuring their underwriting rules and premiums. One major change in the rules is to start charging women more for coverage. From an insurer's point of view, this change is understandable. Women live longer, so they have more time to become disabled — a fact which the industry seemed to have overlooked when they started selling these in the 1980s. Seven out of ten residents of nursing homes, 76% of assisted living residents, and 66% of recipients of home care services are female. As a result, insurers are now charging new female policyholders more than they are charging male policyholders. Single women searching for new policies will be hit particularly hard, with insurance commissioners approving rate hikes of as much as 40%.
However, the head of one trade group argues that the real culprit is the low interest-rate environment. Insurers need to make enough money through fairly conservative investments to pay out claims. The combination of very low interest rates and unexpected demand for payment of claims is forcing rate hikes.
Whatever the reason may be, shop carefully for a policy. Work with an experienced long-term care insurance agent who sells for a number of different policies, so you can compare your options.
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