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Policy: Health Care

Long-term care insurance rates rising in Oregon

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News,Business,Oregon,Health Care

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — About 30,000 Oregonians who insure themselves against the expense of long-term care will see their premium rates rise by an average of 26 percent as the state works to balance requests from insurance companies seeking even higher increases.

The Insurance Division has been going through insurers' requests for a boost in rates on the policies, the Salem Statesman Journal reported Monday (http://stjr.nl/1nkviyU ). Insurance for long-term care is still relatively new, and companies are struggling to pay out benefits to an aging population that's living longer.

The state has ruled on requests from 23 insurance companies, cutting down many of the increases that averaged 45 percent. It has 15 requests pending.

The insurance pays for care of older people at home, in an assisted-living facility or in a nursing home.

People pay premiums, sometimes for many years, before they need to use the benefits. Typically, they start doing so when facing difficulties with daily tasks such as eating, bathing or dressing or when they have mental impairments.

Insurance companies are raising premiums as policyholders live longer than projected and use more of their benefits, on top of low interest rates that have undermined revenue for insurers. Some companies have stopped underwriting new policies or have gotten out of the market.

"There has been contraction in the long-term care market nationally, and we have seen that in Oregon," said Laura Cali, the state insurance commissioner.

Cali said consumers can reduce their premiums by:

— Scaling back on coverage.

— Limiting inflation protection, which means their policies would cover a smaller percentage of the costs of care in the future.

— Curbing the amount of benefits or shortening the period they receive them.

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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