U.S. individual long term care insurance sales fell to $600 million in 2008, down 7% from the 2007 total.

Researchers at LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn., have based those figures on an industry survey.

“The recession had a major impact on LTC insurance sales during the second half of 2008,” says Karen Fisherkeller, a LIMRA analyst. “Historically, individual products have emerged relatively unscathed from the effects of a recession. This time, however, all individual product lines have taken a hit.”

LTC insurance appears to be particularly vulnerable, Fisherkeller says.

Although sales were down, the total value of premiums for coverage in force at the end of 2008 was about $8.6 billion, up 5% from the 2007 total. The number of individual LTC insurance policies in force increased 2%, to 4.8 million.

But the number of new individual LTC insurance buyers fell 9%, to 277,000.

The number of new LTC buyers is now about what it was in the early 1990s, LIMRA reports.