Sales of individual long term care insurance policies were down in the first quarter, according to LIMRA International.

New LTC insurance premiums fell 34%, to $103 million in the first quarter, down from $154 million in the first quarter of 2008.

New lives covered fell 32%, to 48,438, from 69,316.

“Even on the best of occasions, long term care has been struggling to grow,” says Catherine Theroux, a spokeswoman for LIMRA, Windsor, Conn. “In this economy, it has been hit especially hard.”

Individual LTC policy sales have dropped almost every year since 2003, according to LIMRA data.

In 2007, new premiums did increase 3%, despite a 1% drop in new lives covered.

Last year, individual sales resumed their decline, with new premiums falling 7% and covered lives falling 9%.