NU Online News Service, Dec. 23, 2003, 6:32 p.m. EST – Roughly 362,000 people bought individual long term care insurance coverage in the United States during the first 9 months of 2003, down 4% from the number who bought coverage during the comparable period in 2002, according to results of a survey conducted by LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn.[@@]

Premium revenue from new LTC sales also posted a slight decline, falling 2% from the total for the first 9 months of 2002.

LIMRA found that 15 of the 23 carriers surveyed reported lower LTC sales revenue for the latest quarter than they reported for the third quarter of 2002.

But strong results for the first quarter are helping the 9-month results, and 9-month LTC sales premium totals are up 10% or more at 10 of the carriers surveyed, LIMRA says.

Some carriers that have left the LTC market have reported 100% drops in premiums from new sales, but one carrier has nearly doubled its new LTC sales, LIMRA says.

Consumers who bought individual LTC insurance during the first 9 months of 2003 are paying an average of $1,870 during the first policy year, up 1% from the average for 2002.

Although individual LTC sales were down, group LTC insurance sales nearly quadrupled between the first half of 2002 and the first half of 2003.

The growth was driven by the success of the new federal LTC insurance program, which resulted in a 343% increase in total new premiums for employer-sponsored LTC insurance sales.

But, excluding the results for the federal program, group LTC sales declined 33%, LIMRA says.

Only one carrier other than the federal LTC consortium reported sales growth in the employer-sponsored market, LIMRA says.

Workers who bought LTC coverage through the worksite during the first half are paying an average of $1,176 during the first policy year, up 65% from the average for the first half of 2002, LIMRA says.