Monday, September 24, 2012

Employers Face Changed Long Term Care Insurance Options

As the traditional open enrollment season for benefits commences, employers are facing new decisions regarding long term care insurance offerings.

“There is only one insurance company still offering true group long term care insurance to large employers looking to commence a new benefit offering and only one insurer who ceased selling new plans that will allow newly eligible employees to sign up,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. “Larger employers who have previously offered a long term care insurance benefit to their employees have been forced to adopt a new and different approach to this important benefit.”

True group long term care insurance generally is available to larger employers, those with 500 or more employees. Policies typically offer some form of guaranteed health insurability or modified health underwriting standards. “In the current low interest rate environment the insurers like MetLife, CNA, Unum and Prudential who once offered true group coverage have ceased offering this option,” Slome notes. “The industry has shifted to ‘multilife’ policies which are individual policies offering a group discount and some underwriting concessions.”

“For this year’s open enrollment season, employers who have previously offered long term care insurance to their employees really have three options,” Slome says. “Don’t offer any coverage, offer coverage using multilife long term care insurance policies or recommend employees seek coverage on an individual basis.”

According to the Association, several long term care insurance companies offer coverage on a multilife basis. Slome notes that Genworth, Transamerica, MedAmerica and LifeSecure (a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan subsidiary) currently offer multilife long term care insurance policies. “The discounts typically range from five to 15 percent off the regular pricing, depending on the size of the group and the health underwriting concessions offered to attract participation,” Slome states.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Executive Urges Boomers To Help Aging Parents Avoid Falls

Every year about one out of three Americans over age 65 fall accounting for nearly 20,000 deaths and more than two million visits to the nation’s emergency rooms. The nation’s medical cost associated with falls by seniors is estimated to be nearly $30 billion.

“Falls also account for many of the 200,000 claims currently being paid by the nation’s long term care insurance companies,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the industry trade group. “Just as parents baby proof a house, adult children with parents over age 65 can take steps to fall proof their aging parents home which will prevent countless falls not to mention all the pain, suffering and cost.”

Indeed two new studies report that the number of falls can be reduced by roughly 30 percent and the number of people falling by about 20 percent. Researchers reported that exercise that contains multiple components such as strength and balance training can be helpful.

An additional study recently published by researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand projected that with the right interventions; the number of falls could be much lower. Scientists looked at 159 studies with roughly 80,000 seniors who had been randomly assigned to a fall prevention program, a program not designed to decrease falls, or no intervention at all.

The researchers found that some interventions to treat vision problems, such as adjusting to new glasses, also increased the risk of falls. They also shared that exercise, including Tai Chi, effectively cut the risk of falling.

Slome, one of the nation’s leading long term care insurance experts, noted that home safety assessment and modification was essential. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 38,000 Americans 65 and older are treated in ERs each year after tripping on a rug or a carpet. More than a third of the falls happen in the bathroom.

“If you have aging parents, help make their home fall safe by removing newspapers and books from the floor and stairs,” Slome advises. “Get rid of small rugs or tape them to the floor and have grab bars in the bathroom plus non-slip mats in the bathtub.”

“We get many calls from adults with aging parents hoping they can buy long term care insurance but this must be done while you can still health qualify,” Slome explains. “It’s too late for that but it’s not too late to help them live in a safer environment and we hope awareness motivates more consumers to act before an accident occurs.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

For Boomers Exercise Lowers Long Term Care Risk

Baby boomers in their 50s have a lower risk of getting chronic diseases some of which can result in a need for extensive periods of long term care according to a new study conducted by the University of Texas Southwest.

“Nothing like a study to confirm what your mother always told you that exercise is good for you,” explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. “We have millions of aging baby boomers who are couch potatoes and these folks face a risk of diseases and a higher rate of needing care.”

Physical activity has many proven benefits, Slome notes. “Insurers who offer long term care insurance require applicants to meet certain health standards before they are offered this important protection,” Slome notes. “Weight has an effect on the future risk of cardiovascular disease, bone health and even diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

The study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, located in Dallas, reveals that one can have a higher quality of life improving the way one ages. According to findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine it is possible that fit people delay the onset of chronic illness. The director of the project is noted as saying they see reduced chronic disease, rather than just delaying the inevitable.’

Researchers studied over 18,000 healthy men and women, who had undergone a treadmill test sometime around age 50. Using Medicare claims data spanning an average of 26 years, the researchers then linked the treadmill results to the rate of eight chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and colon cancer.

They found that men falling into the lowest fifth of fitness scores, had chronic disease rates that were 28 percent per year. By contrast, the rate was only 16 percent per year among those men in the top fifth.

“When it comes to baby boomers applying for long term care insurance, if you have some weight or health issues it pays to find out which insurer will accept you prior to applying,” Slome recommends. “There can be variances between insurers and you want to avoid being declined coverage if it’s possible.”

Monday, September 3, 2012

Newer Long Term Care Insurance Inflation Options Gain Favor

Over 330,000 individuals purchased long term care insurance last year and an increasing percentage opted for newer options that increase the future value of their coverage.

According a study of new buyers conducted annually by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance a growing percentage are choosing newer growth options including one that increases benefits by three percent annually. “You want your coverage to grow to keep pace with anticipated increased costs over time,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the national trade organization.

Historically, the most popular option increased future benefits by five percent, Slome notes. “Today, three percent is becoming the new five percent because consumers are finding it a far more affordable and therefore attractive option.” The long term care insurance expert explains that costs for coverage and benefit increase options are closely tied to interest rates. “With interest rates at near zero with no one predicting any change in the next few years, how can you increase benefits at five percent and keep the premiums affordable?” Slome asks. “As a result, newer options which benefit consumers are being offered.”

The Association study found that 23.5 percent of new buyers opted for the three percent compound growth option in 2011 up from 16.7 percent during the prior year. The percentage of those selecting the old-style five percent growth option declined from 42.8 percent to nearly 34 percent.

The need to plan for the eventual risk of needing long term care is vital for individuals over age 50 according to Slome. “We tell people the risk they will need care is either zero percent or 100 percent and the question is, do you have a plan in place?” Not all those who want to purchase insurance can do so according to the Association. “You must be able to health qualify for this coverage and you must be able to afford the premiums,” Slome concludes. “The newer options now available make it much more affordable for many more people who recognize the risk they face and want to prepare.”