Genworth has received increase approvals in 43 states. (AP photo/Genevieve Ross)

Executives at Genworth Financial Inc. (NYSE:GNW) said they are trying to find out why the severity of long-term care insurance (LTCI) claims increased so sharply in the second quarter.

The spike in claims cut net operating earnings at the LTCI business to $6 million, from $26 million in the second 2013, and it eventually might force Genworth to pump cash into the reserves backing the policies, executives said. Genworth is now paying LTCI benefits for about 53,000 of the 1.2 million people its policies insure. 

Executives talked about the challenges facing the LTCI business during a conference call with securities analysts. Tom McInerney, Genworth’s president, started the call by saying, “Except for the our long-term care business, I’m encouraged by Genworth’s second-quarter results.”

McInerney later talked about a new, flexible family of LTCI products Genworth is rolling out. “We are confident that Genworth will be a leader in a more attractive long-term care insurance market,” McInerney said. “It is in the interest of all stakeholders to significantly increase the number of Americans who are covered by private long-term care insurance.”

Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day, and the typical American has less than $107,000 in retirement savings, McInerney said.

But McInerney said Genworth needs state insurance regulators and other policymakers to help Genworth offer new kinds of products and let the company adjust to changes by imposing smaller, more frequent rate increases, rather than imposing giant increases of 50 percent or more after long periods of time.

Genworth estimates that LTCI rate increases it has already requested could help the company improve underwriting results by about $250 million to $350 million per year by 2017. Forty-three states have approved changes that should eventually improve results by about $190 million to $200 million.

In six states, however, Genworth has nearly exhausted mechanisms for appealing rate increase denials, McInerney said. “We’re evaluating all options, up to and including the suspension of sales in these states,” he said.