Health Insurers Hiking Single Women's Long-Term Rates

Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 03:27 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Health insurance companies are raising prices on single women's long-term-care policies nationwide, saying women live longer and collect more benefits.

Insurance rates are higher in 34 states where sex-distinctive rates have been adopted, and while New York and New Jersey still have the same rates for men and women, that is about to change, reports The New York Daily News. The different rates have led to sex-discrimination complaints being filed by a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.

"It's about longevity," American Association for Long Term Care Insurance Director Jesse Slome told The Daily News. "Single women are more likely to go on claim."

Long-term insurance covers needs for seniors, including nursing home stays and costs for home health aides. On a national level, premiums for single women went up by 12 percent in 2013, an AALTC report says.

Insurers started charging women higher premiums last spring, noting that two-thirds of their long-term claims were paid out to women. According to the AALTC, this means a 55-year-old single woman pays an average of $1,225 annually for the same benefits that a single man gets for $925.

Earlier this month, the National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., filed sex discrimination complaints against Genworth Financial, the John Hancock unit of Manulife Financial Corp., the Transamerica unit of Aegon N.V. ADS, and Mutual of Omaha, reports The Wall Street Journal.

"Women already have a hard-enough time making ends meet, earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men," said NWLC vice president and general counsel Emily Martin. "Women simply can’t afford to pay 20 percent to 40 percent more than men for the same long-term care insurance."

The legal complaints are seeking to ban insurers from participating in federally endorsed long-term-care "partnership programs," which allow people who buy some insurance policies to shield personal assets while qualifying for Medicaid.

"Because long-term-care insurance addresses health needs, it is a program or activity" that should be covered under Obamacare, insists the NWLC, and the move to gender-specific ratings violates federal laws against gender discrimination in programs that receive federal assistance.

Slome told The Daily News that 70 percent to 80 percent of long-term-care policies are sold to couples, not singles.

In New York, leading long-term-care insurance carrier Genworth Financial has gotten permission from the New York Department of Financial Services to use gender-based rates in the state. Other insurers will likely follow.

The rates are going up while long-term care becomes even more expensive. In Manhattan, for example, a private room in a nursing home costs $180,000 a year, according to a Genworth study.

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