Claims payments by 4 large group long term care insurers rose to $172 million in 2007, up 17% from the 2006 total.

Researchers at the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, Westlake Village, Calif., which conducted the group LTC survey, says 10,000 employers now offer some form of LTC benefits.

More than 2 million U.S. residents have bought coverage through the employer-sponsored LTC programs, the AALTCI says.

In 2007, 63% of buyers were under age 55.

Half of all new policies provided a current daily benefit of between $100 and $200 per day, and 79% of employer LTC program participants chose a benefit period of 5 years or more, the researchers report.

About 12% of those receiving first-time benefits from their group LTC policies were under age 60.

“The largest open claims ranged from $340,000 to $458,000, with claimants having received benefits for between 6 and 9 years,” says AALTCI Executive Director Jesse Slome.

More than 38% of benefits payments were for home care, and 17% went to cover the cost of assisted living facilities. The rest covered nursing home care.