The average cost of nursing home care was up nearly 3% this year over 2006, while home health care costs rose 12%, a study by New York Life Insurance Company finds.

The rate of increase was moderate compared to 2006, when nursing home costs rose an average of 6% over the year before.

New York Life’s latest study shows the nationwide average cost of a nursing home private room with a single occupant climbed in 2007 to $209 a day, or $76,322 per year, from around $204 per day in 2006, or $74,445 per year.

Semi-private rooms, with double occupancy, rose to an average of $185 a day, or $67,554 a year this year, compared to $180 dollars a day, or $65,700 a year in 2006.

The hourly rate for a home health aide hired from a Medicare-certified agency averaged $37.36 per hour in 2007, or 12.2% over last year. Hourly rates across the country ranged widely, but the combined average hourly rate for Medicare-certified and non-certified home health aides is $28.17, a 6.1% increase from 2006, New York Life found.

“It is a common misconception that long term care refers only to care in a nursing home,” Dennis O’Brien, head of New York Life’s Long Term Care Division observes. “In fact, most long term care is received in the home.”

According to the study, the highest daily rates for private nursing home rooms in the U.S. were in Alaska; southern Connecticut; the Connecticut Valley; the Hudson Valley, N.Y.; and the Boston area (see chart). Those regions were the same highest-cost areas New York Life reported last year.

The 4 lowest-cost areas for semiprivate nursing home care in the latest survey were all in Texas: Dallas/Fort Worth ($111), Corpus Christi ($112), San Antonio ($113) and Austin ($116).

For average hourly services of a home health aide from a Medicare-certified provider, the lowest-cost area the company found was Charleston, W.V. at $15.67.

O’Brien says the company plans to build the results of the study into the customer illustration program used by its sales force, with data customized to each rep’s local area.

The company’s sales force saw LTC insurance sales increase 15% in 2007, he reports. That field force is 8,000 strong, although not every New York Life agent sells LTC insurance, O’Brien notes.

Conducted by CareScout, a research arm of National Eldercare Referral Systems Inc., Wellesley, Mass., the study covered more than 3,000 nursing homes across 120 metropolitan areas as well as 2,800 health care providers.