EBRI Issue Brief

Long-Term Care and the Private Insurance Market

Jul 1, 1995 24  pages


  • Increased life expectancy and the aging of the baby boom generation will bring rapid growth in the number of people at risk of needing long-term care (LTC). This Issue Brief provides an overview of the current LTC financing and delivery system in the United States, focusing on private-sector initiatives to meet the United States' LTC needs. It discusses private-sector plan design—particularly employment-based plan design—providing an indepth look at the dramatic changes taking place in the private-sector LTC market since its inception in the early and mid 1980s.
  • Aside from informal care provided in the community, the current system of financing LTC depends largely on the Medicaid program and individual financing. Issues confronting this system include spiraling costs associated with LTC services that may threaten beneficiaries' access to care. Other issues include the potential depletion of personal assets and a bias toward institutionalization (which may not always provide the most cost-effective or desired type of care available).
  • Many leaders regard private long-term care insurance (LTCI) as a way to increase access to financing and as a potential alternative to Medicaid and out-of-pocket financing.
  • By the end of 1993, a total of 3.4 million private-sector LTCI policies had been sold, up from approximately 815,000 in 1987. While the majority of these plans were sold to individuals or through group associations, employment-based plans accounted for a significant proportion of this growth.
  • Premiums for LTCI vary substantially based on age and plan design. Insurers generally attempt to set premiums such that they will remain level over the insured's lifetime. However, because little LTC claims insurance experience yet exists, the actuarial basis for developing premiums and statutory reserves is limited.
  • Several bills over the last three Congresses have been introduced to address the issue of LTC. However, due to cost implications and lack of consensus regarding the optimum overall structure required to finance and deliver care, broad legislation to expand coverage—particularly public coverage—is not likely in the near term.