Premiums jump for long-term care insurance in Pa. | TribLIVE.com
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Wesley Venteicher
Regis Niederberger, 71 of South Fayette, is facing a rate hike for the long-term care insurance policies held by himself and his wife.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department said Tuesday that it capped requested rate increases at 20 percent for most long-term care insurance plans after four carriers requested increases up to 130 percent.

Many policyholders can further limit premium increases by reducing their plan benefits in accordance with the department’s agreements with the insurers, according to an Insurance Department news release.

“I believe the reduced premium increases, along with the option for many policyholders to further reduce or even eliminate premium increases while still keeping important long-term care benefits, provides consumers with the most protection from large rate increases possible — while still making sure these companies have the financial means to pay claims when they are filed,” Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said in the release.

The companies can request more increases in the future but cannot change plan benefits without policyholders’ consent, Insurance Department spokesman Ron Ruman said in an email.

Long-term care insurance covers services people need when they become unable to care for themselves, including help with daily living, home health care, respite care and care in assisted living facilities, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Medical advances are allowing people to live longer, and policyholders are receiving more care late in life, driving costs higher than what insurers anticipated when they set plan prices, the Insurance Department said in its explanations of the rate increases. Premiums are not sufficient to cover future claims, according to the department. Nationally, the market for long-term care insurance has grown to 7 million people from fewer than 3 million in the past decade, according to the NAIC.

Costs of long-term care also are increasing. In Pennsylvania, the median cost of a one-year stay in a private nursing home room is more than $113,000, Rod Perkins, the American Council of Life Insurers’ vice president of insurance regulation, said in an email. The median cost of a one-year stay in an assisted living facility exceeds $46,000, Perkins said.

Long-term care insurance premiums vary widely based on benefits — a 60-year-old couple should expect to pay between $1,920 and $3,560 per year in premiums for 2016, according to the American Association for Long-term Care Insurance.

Medicare doesn’t cover daily living assistance in most cases, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The four companies requested the increases for about 47,000 policies in Pennsylvania, according to the release. About 278,000 Pennsylvanians had long-term care insurance as of 2014, according to the NAIC.

The Insurance Department capped increases requested by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Genworth Life Insurance Co., Unum Life Insurance Co. of America and John Hancock Life Insurance Co. Proposed increases depend on types of plans. Specifics are available at insurance.pa.gov.

Unum no longer sells long-term care insurance in Pennsylvania but still manages existing plans, spokeswoman Mary Clarke Guenther said in an email. Genworth and John Hancock didn’t respond to questions Tuesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman from MetLife referred questions to the American Council of Life Insurers.

“Insurers are making various options available to policyholders to help mitigate the impact of rate increases,” Perkins, of the American Council of Life Insurers, said in a statement. “The industry wants to work with Insurance Commissioner Miller and her staff to help ensure Pennsylvania consumers continue to have access to this important insurance coverage.”

The department has not yet issued decisions on increases other companies requested more recently, including an aggregate requested increase of 77 percent for a group of Highmark Inc. plans and a 75 percent requested increase from MedAmerica Insurance Co., according to rate filings.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or [email protected].

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