The growing population of people over age 60 is changing the way individuals and businesses think about long-term care insurance, and the biggest indicator of that, says one insurance expert, is the fact they are thinking about it at all.
For themselves, baby boomers are starting to see it as a more accepted part of retirement planning, said Stacia Vetter, assistant vice president of National Healthcare Corp. in Nashville.
Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Brandy Hood, new business assistant, works at Profit Plans LLC on Thursday afternoon. The market for long-term care insurance is growing.
“Fifteen years ago, people didn’t know what long-term care insurance was,” Ms. Vetter said. “Now people are much more aware, not only of the product but the importance that it plays in their own retirement planning, and we are seeing more businesses offering long-term care insurance to their employees as a benefit.”
From 1989, two years after the first group long-term care insurance contracts were written, policies were offered to 3 percent of full-time employees in businesses with at least 100 workers. By 2003, 19 percent of workers in large companies were offered the benefit, according to a 2003 study by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We expect that this trend has continued and perhaps even accelerated over the past five years,” said Karin Miller, communications director for AARP in Tennessee. “We’ve got this influx of boomers coming and we’ve got increasing longevity, so people are going to need long-term care services, and it would be a great thing for more companies to offer this as a benefit.”
Businesses that offer long-term care insurance as a benefit typically don’t provide a match, she said, but the group policies are cheaper than an individual one, Ms. Miller said.
“If you live long enough, you are going to need care. That is all there is to it,” said Kathy Bishop, vice president of marketing for Chattanooga-based Profit Plans LLC. “More employers are seeing this as a valuable benefit. It doesn’t just help their employees; it’s a good benefit for them.”
For employers, the advantage of offering long-term care insurance is it allows their workforce to potentially be less distracted by calls from a nursing home or from a parent needing help, Mrs. Bishop said. In most cases, the insurance policy could provide reimbursement for an in-home health aid or a private nurse.
Employees with intense caregiving responsibilities cost employers an estimated $17.1 billion each year, according to a 2007 study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. The study defines intense caregivers as those who provide personal care tasks such as bathing, dressing and feeding.
As they begin to see their own parents or friends’ parents need care, baby boomers are beginning to think more about long-term care insurance , Mrs. Bishop said.
“They are starting to hear the stories, and they’re starting to say ‘I need to look into this for my parents, if they are still healthy,’” she said.