Women to Pay Higher Premiums for Long-Term Care

March 29, 2013

With health care costs projected to rise substantially over the next decade, some women are finding it more difficult to afford long-term care insurance. With public programs already buckling under pressure to provide more long-term care, the burden could fall on Congress to address how the health of many near-poverty women will be provided for, says the Fiscal Times.

  • Several insurance companies have announced plans to hike premiums by 50 percent for long-term health insurance.
  • The state-run CalPERS located in California is planning on an 85 percent premium hike. Another company, Genworth, plans for a 50 percent rate hike and other insurance companies are considering pricing gender.

Premium hikes are occurring because interest rates have remained so low that insurance companies cannot invest in premiums or build up reserves to pay out claims in the distant future. Insurance companies have always charged men and women the same rates, though women live longer than men and are more likely to need long-term care. There's no regulation that prohibits insurance companies from charging different rates for men and women.

  • Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, expects all insurance companies to follow Genworth's lead and file sex-distinct rates, with women being charged 20 percent to 40 percent more than men.
  • Ten percent to 15 percent of the elderly population is covered by private long-term health care insurance.
  • The annual cost of long-term health care insurance for a single person age 55 is $1,720; that number is $2,700 for a couple.

Medicare does not cover long-term care, only primary and emergency care, and Medicaid only covers long-term care if an individual is close to abject poverty. Because of this, some couples try to spend down, diverting their assets and transferring money to their children to qualify for Medicaid.

  • National health care spending for long-term services was $210.9 billion in 2011, 66 percent of which was paid my Medicaid.
  • The annual cost for a nursing home is more than $75,000 a year and 17 percent of people over the age of 65 will receive care in a long-term care facility for one or two more years.

Congress recently created a bipartisan commission to develop a plan to make long-term care services more affordable. In the meantime, many women may suffer with premium payments that are higher than men's.

Source: Julie Halpert, "The Health Care Dilemma That Could Bankrupt Women," Fiscal Times, March 25, 2013.

 

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