People in the United States who apply for private long-term care insurance seem to be a pretty healthy bunch.
Portia Cornell, a health policy researcher at Harvard University, and four other researchers have presented data supporting that conclusion in a paper published, behind a paywall, on the website of Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses on health care delivery and health care finance systems.
The researchers started with data on 15,659 long-term care insurance applications sent to two issuers from 2008 through 2012. The researchers then compared the long-term care insurance applicant data with data on all U.S. residents ages 50 and older collected by the managers of the Health and Retirement Study, a national survey program.
The researchers found that, in many ways, the long-term care insurance applicants look as if they might be at lower risk of needing long-term care services than members of the general over-50 population. The long-term care insurance applicants were more likely to have been in the hospital and to have minor health problems. But, possibly because potential long-term care insurance applicants screened themselves, or because insurance agents screened the would-be applicants, the long-term care insurance applicants were much less likely to report having major health problems. The long-term care insurance applicants were also much less likely to have problems passing a simple memory screening test.
The researchers end with a prediction that could disappoint many long-term care insurance agents and brokers: The researchers say using expansion of private long-term care insurance coverage to eliminate the need for new public long-term care programs efforts will be difficult, because about 40 percent of Americans ages 50 and older have health problems or other risk factors that would make them expensive for private long-term care insurance issuers to cover.
Long-term care insurance issuers have been rejecting only about 20 percent to 25 percent of the applications they receive, the researchers write.
But the researchers also provide support for the idea that fear of an long-term care insurance application rejection helps compensate for the possibility that some consumers who have “private information” about a high risk of needing long-term care services rush out to apply for long-term care insurance.
The team’s paper also gives some interesting information about what the applicants in the application pool were really like.
For a look at some of the comparison data, read on:
Even before the shift to gender-priced long-term care insurance pricing took off, women were less likely to apply for coverage than men were. (Photo: iStock)
Long-term care insurance applicants: 45 percent were women.
General 50+ population: 52 percent were women.
The researchers confirmed what every agent knows about long-term care insurance applicants: They tend to be well-educated. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Long-term care insurance applicants: 48 percent had a college degree.
General 50+ population: 31 percent had a college degree.
The odds that an long-term care insurance applicant has been in the hospital recently are very high. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Long-term care insurance applicants: 53 percent had been in the hospital in the previous two years.
General 50+ population: 21 percent had been in the hospital in the previous two years.
Long-term care insurance applicants are a little more likely than other Americans to be obese, but they are less likely to be extremely obese. (Photo: iStock)