Long-Term Care on the Rise, but Varied

Rates for long-term care insurance, which can help pay for care in your own house or in a nursing home, rose this year an average of nearly 9 percent, a new industry report finds.

Still, rates vary greatly depending on the insurer and the specifics; increases for some policies were much larger, and in some cases — like certain policies covering couples — quite modest, according to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a trade group.

Each January, the association compares top-selling policies offered by major insurers to determine average rates. This year’s analysis includes rates from 10 insurers, using policies sold in Tennessee, a “representative” state, Mr. Slome said. Factors behind the rates include higher claims costs, he said; in 2014, insurers paid out $7.8 billion in claims, an increase of nearly 5 percent.

A healthy 55-year-old man can now expect to pay, on average, $2,075 per year for $164,000 in initial benefits, up from $1,765 last year, the report found.

The cost for a healthy, single woman of the same age is higher: Her average premium is $2,411, up from $2,307. Insurers take gender into account when pricing long-term care policies, since, statistically, women live longer and are more likely to need long-term care.

Last year, the National Women’s Law Center filed federal sex-discrimination complaints against four insurers, challenging such gender-based pricing on the grounds that the practice violates a provision of the Affordable Care Act barring sex discrimination in health care. The action is pending with the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights.

Couples generally get a discount if they buy a joint policy; the rationale is that one or the other is likely to provide some care for a spouse initially, Mr. Slome said. A married couple, both age 60, would now pay $3,930 combined, up from $3,840, for $328,000 of initial coverage.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary