Long term care insurance carriers are adding new product features in an effort to improve sales.[@@]

- Aetna Inc., Hartford, has added a number of enhancements to its group LTC benefits, including shared care, which transfers remaining coverage to a surviving spouse when the member dies.

- John Hancock Financial Services Inc., Boston, has been looking to increase sales by introducing benefits that appeal to younger consumers, says Michele Van Leer, executive vice president of the company’s LTC division.

“We put in a double indemnity rider so that if a person needs care as a result of an accident prior to age 65, we’ll double the benefit,” Van Leer says.

Another Hancock option gives buyers the choice of taking a shorter benefit period in exchange for higher daily benefits.

- New York Life Insurance Company is offering a well-received inflation-protection feature, the CPI-U benefit. The benefit is tied to the federal government’s Consumer Price Index-Urban Inflation rate.

Most competing inflation-protection benefits protect consumers by using standard simple interest or compound interest formulas.

Pegging inflation protection to the CPI-U should do a better job of protecting consumers against increases in actual prices, says Kenneth Grubb, a senior vice president at New York Life’s long term care operation.

“About half of the people who are buying our LTC policy are selecting that feature,” Grubb says.

- UnumProvident Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn., has updated its group LTC quote process to allow employers more leeway in customizing plans to fit their employees’ income levels and other employee demographics, says Michael Simonds, vice president of product and market development for UnumProvident.

Carriers are also expanding home care provisions, to appeal to consumers leery of extended nursing home stays.

Among consumers, “9 out of 10 want to stay home if they need care,” says Buck Stinson, president of the LTC business at Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va.

One product Genworth sells, Privileged Choice, requires no elimination period for claims for home care. It also is more flexible than standard policies when it comes to paying for care provided by family members.

Some LTC carriers are upgrading policies by turning features that once were optional riders into standard product features.

New York Life, for example, has added a restoration-of-benefits feature to some policies. If an individual receives benefits for a few months, the restoration feature makes it so that those months are gradually added back to the policy once the policyholder emerges from care.

New York Life also embedded limited worldwide coverage in policies. That feature lets policyholders who are stricken with long-term illnesses while they are overseas receive benefits overseas until they are well enough to return to the United States.

“It’s a nice benefit to have if something happens to you overseas,” Grubb says.