U.S. long term care insurers paid benefits to about 180,000 individual claimants in 2007, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Researchers at the AALTCI, Westlake Village, Calif., came up with the figure by conducting a survey of 60 insurers that insure about 98% of all U.S. LTC insurance policies now in force.

The U.S. LTC insurance industry paid about $3.5 billion in benefits in 2007, up from $3.3 billion in 2006, the AALTCI says.

About 43% of the claims paid were for home care; 32%, for assisted living; and 24%, for nursing home care.

Although 55% of the new claimants were ages 80 and older, 32% were ages 70 to 79, and 11% were ages 50 to 69.

Two-thirds of the individuals on claim were women, and women received about two-thirds of the benefits paid, the AALTCI says.

“Women live longer,” says AALTCI Executive Director Jesse Slome. “Women, especially those who are divorced, widowed or living alone, need to plan for the risk.”