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Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Maryland seniors face 15% premium hike for long-term health care policies

Scientists have long sought a way to detect Alzheimer's before symptoms appear.
Scientists have long sought a way to detect Alzheimer's before symptoms appear.

Two health insurance companies with policyholders in Maryland want to hike rates again to the maximum allowed by state law. A state agency will decide whether to approve the move by the end of the year.

Insurer LifeSecure already raised its rates by 5% in 2018. Several carriers have increased their rates recently, some of them, like Allianz Life Insurance Company, have already set up three-year plans where certain policies will increase by 15% between 2023 and 2026.

While most seniors qualify for Medicare once they hit 65 years old, long-term care insurance often covers what the federal program does not, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation services or adult day care.

“Long term care insurance protects people with a prolonged illness, disability or cognitive condition,” according to a statement from the Maryland Insurance Administration.

In real life, that could mean a senior with Alzheimer’s disease who needs help with daily activities such as dressing themselves, bathing or eating.

Both MassMutual and LifeSecure are seeking state approval for 15% premium rate hikes for hundreds of seniors with long-term care insurance policies. About 660 seniors statewide would be affected by the decision.

Nearly 100 companies sold the policies 15 years ago, as of 2020 only about a dozen still do.

The companies need approval from the Maryland Insurance Administration before the insurance premiums are increased. MassMutual is already planning to increase rates once again next year by 14%.

Jesse Slome, director of the American Association of Long Term Care Insurance and lobbyist for the industry, said that rates are increasing because people are living longer but need more medical care.

“The good news is people are living longer, you're not dying,” Slome said. “It's not good news, necessarily, for an insurance company that sold long term care Insurance, expecting that X percent of policyholders would die without ever needing care.”

Insurance companies have been raising their rates nationwide because of increased longevity.

AARP found that in 2020 the average yearly premium for a 55-year-old man was $2,225 and $3,700 for a woman of the same age. Prices increase by 3% each year.

Long-term health care can be expensive. The state insurance agency estimates that rooms in nursing homes are more than $200 a day and health aides cost about $20 an hour.

The federal government has adjusted for higher cost of living for seniors getting social security benefits, the most recent increase of 8.7% will be in January 2023 payments.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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