Individual long term care (LTC) insurance sales rose 13% in the first half of this year, reversing a sales decline that had endured for most of the previous seven years, LIMRA reports.

Total individual LTC insurance dollar volume for the period was about $214 million, the association says.LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., also found an increase of 11% in lives covered by individual LTC insurance policy in the first half compared to the year before.But the growth for individual LTC insurance so far this year must be viewed in light of dismal sales last year, observes LIMRA.

In fact, sales for the product have been declining since 2002, except for a modest rise of 3% in 2007–and even then, total new lives covered were down 1% from 2006, LIMRA data shows.LIMRA gathered data for the report from 20 carriers, representing 95% of the individual LTC insurance market.For the top five carriers, new premium grew 26% in the first half. One carrier more than doubled new premium, LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., says.Of the top 10, seven reported growth, and four saw growth greater than 30%.Most of the remaining carriers continued to struggle for new sales, and nine saw sales drop at least 20%. One carrier, Allianz Life Insurance Company of America, dropped out of the individual LTC market altogether.

“After assessing the general marketplace and industry sales trends, Allianz Life decided to stop selling stand-alone long-term care insurance products as of November 13, 2009,” says a spokeswoman for Allianz Life, Golden Valley, Minn. “These products comprise less than .01% of our overall business. We will continue to service current policyholders, who are not affected by this decision.”

For the industry as a whole, the average premium for an individual LTC policy in the first half was $2,174 for the first year of coverage, up 2% over last year. For tax-qualified plans, first-year premiums averaged $2,180, while for non-qualified plans, premiums averaged $1,483.

Of carriers in the study, 13 reported multilife sales of individual LTC insurance, totaling more than $40 million in new premium in the first half, up 12% from the same period in the previous year. They covered more than 21,000 new lives, up 6%.

Most of the growth in multilife was in association-sold policies, which totaled almost $26.9 million in new multilife premium, up 55%, and 13,127 lives, up 49%.In contrast, multilife sales in worksites plunged 32%, to $11.7 million, while covered new lives totaled only 7,563, down 29%, according to LIMRA.

New worksite sales averaged $1,542 in annual premium for individual LTC, while association buyers paid $2,049. In the multilife market, 13 carriers accounted for 19% of individual LTC insurance buyers and 17% of new premium in the first half.

Jennifer Douglas, an associate research director for LIMRA, notes that 2010 sales for the individual LTC market as a whole is being contrasted to 2008, when sales were down 23% from the previous year.”We still have a way to go,” Douglas says. “Sales have been struggling for some time. They’re not in a good place right now.”LTC insurance sales starting falling in the early part of the decade because of carrier exits from the business and rate increases.”But the biggest problem is consumer apathy,” Douglas observes. “And certainly, the economy did us no favors.”The rate increases also gave consumers “an easy excuse that it’s too expensive,” Douglas says.