John Hancock Insurance, one of the companies that helped create the U.S. long-term care insurance market, is discontinuing sales of individual stand-alone long-term care insurance in the United States ”in response to industry trends and stagnant consumer demand.”
The Boston-based unit of Manulife Financial Corp. will stop taking applications for new coverage after Dec. 2.
Manulife is writing off $97 million in intangible assets related to the John Hancock long-term care insurance distribution network. The parent company is also talking a $415 million net charge in connection with a new review of John Hancock’s long-term care insurance assumptions.
Manulife says that John Hancock will continue to honor its obligations to the 1.2 million people who already have its long-term care insurance policies, and that it will continue to sell long-term care riders with life insurance policies. The company discontinued ordinary group long-term care insurance earlier, but it will continue to offer the insurance used to operate the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program.
In the past year, John Hancock has been trying to cope with low interest rates by offering “flex account” long-term care insurance. The flex account is supposed help reduce the net cost of the coverage to the policyholder if and when rates start to rise. Manulife did not give any specific details about John Hancock’s flex account long-term care insurance sales.
Toronto-based Manulife announced the individual long-term care insurance sales shutdown when it released third-quarter earnings. The company reported $1.2 billion in net income in Canadian currency for the third quarter on $14 billion in revenue, up from $672 million in net income on $7.1 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2015.
Stand-alone long-term care insurance sales fell to $8 million in U.S. dollars, from $12 million in the year-earlier quarter.
Long-term care insurance premiums and deposits fell to $553 million in U.S. dollars, from $557 million.
During a conference call with securities analysts, Stephen Roder, Manulife’s chief financial officer, said Manulife took the $415 million John Hancock long-term care insurance assumptions charge as a result of a regular long-term care insurance assumptions review.
“People were staying on claims longer than we anticipated in the assumptions,” Roder said during the call, which was streamed live on the web. “We also found that, in general, mortality and lapse rates were lower than what we’d assumed.”
Some long-term care insurance issuers have suggested that continuing to sell long-term care insurance might increase the odds that state insurance regulators will approve carriers’ requests for rate increases. Roder said Manulife believes rate increase approval rates are similar for active long-term care insurance issuers and for insurers that have withdrawn from the long-term care insurance market.
One securities analyst asked Manulife executives what they think of the move by China Oceanwide Holdings of Beijing to Richond, Virginia-based Genworth Financial, one of John Hancock’s long-term care insurance rivals.
“It’s a very interesting transaction,” Roder said. “We will watch it carefully. Maybe it’s at least a sign that there are potential buyers out there for long-term care assets.”
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