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Actuaries to Study How COVID-19 Affects Patients' Spouses

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What You Need to Know

  • The death of a spouse triples the odds the other spouse will need long-term care in the next year.
  • A long-term care claim for a spouse quadruples the odds the other spouse will soon need care.
  • Use of facility-based care does more than use of home care to have an immediate effect on the other spouse's level of risk.

Actuaries at Milliman are starting to look into how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting couples’ need for long-term care.

The actuaries will be analyzing long-term care insurance (LTCI) claim data to see how a COVID-19 case leading to use of long-term care, or death, in one spouse affects the odds that the other spouse will use long-term care.

Milliman — a Seattle-based actuarial consulting firm — discusses the research project in the first issue of a new Long Term Care Focus newsletter.

The actuaries cite an earlier Milliman analysis of “spousal contagion,” drawing from a pool of 50,000 private LTCI claims, showing that, before the COVID-19 pandemic came along, the death or need for formal long-term care in one spouse correlated with a dramatic increase in the odds that the other spouse will need long-term care.

Here’s what happened in the year after certain things happened to one spouse in a couple:

  • One spouse died: The surviving spouse used long-term care 3.1 times as often as expected.
  • One spouse needed home care: The other spouse used long-term care 4.16 times as often as expected.
  • One spouse needed care in a nursing home or other facility: The other spouse used long-term care 4.8 times as often as expected.

Milliman analysts now want to see how various characteristics of the first spouse, such as care setting or claim diagnosis, affect the odds that the other spouse will need long-term care.

In the new study, the analysts will see how spousal contagion affects outcomes measures other than the second spouse needing long-term care, such as how likely the second spouse is to use long-term care benefits, or to do die.

“With many COVID-19 deaths occurring at ages where LTC claims are most prevalent, claim incidence for surviving spouses may exceed expected levels (based on the patterns above),” the actuaries write.

 

(Photo: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock)