Many American consumers are concerned about a possible continuous increase in long term care insurance rates – a predicament shared by the California Assembly. However, the Assembly recently passed AB 999, a bill that is seen to worsen matters if it passes the State Senate, said Cameron Truesdell, chief executive of LTC Financial Partners (LTCFP), one of the most experienced and biggest long term care insurance companies in the United States.
Under the bill, carriers will have to wait five years before they can request rate changes for existing insurance products and 10 years for new policies. While AB 999 seems like a good idea as it aims to safeguard consumers by imposing a cap on rates, in reality it would have negative consequences, said Truesdell.
These unintended consequences include risk of rate increases on new insurance policies, said Truesdell. Many insurance companies would impose higher rates, knowing that they cannot adjust their rates for a decade. Insurers would have to protect their own interest from the worst case that can happen in 10 years, such as continuous low interest rates that can badly hurt their earnings.
The bill can also result in fewer long term care insurance choices, as some carriers are saying that they will leave the market once the bill becomes a law. Truesdell said this already happened in the past, when a well intentioned yet burdensome law drove many of the leading insurance companies out of a certain state. Insurers made this move as they didn’t want to be thrown overboard or handcuffed.
AB 999 can also put greater financial drain on Medi-Cal — a program designed for the needy — as fewer options for private long term care insurance and initial rate increases will prompt many middle-class Californians to spend down their properties to be eligible for Medi-Cal, rather than purchasing a policy.
Truesdell suggests that California should improve the California Partnership for Long Term Care, rather than pursuing new legislation. Under the existing program, residents can opt for a qualified private long term care insurance quote, with the guarantee of a Medi-Cal protection.
LTCFP commends the motives behind the bill, but good intentions may lead to over-regulation that can backfire, he said. If enacted, the new bill will be of no help to consumers, as it will only mandate and promote higher initial rates on new insurance policies.
LTCFP, which represents multiple carriers, is a co-founding sponsor of the “3 in 4 Need More” movement, which aims to raise the number of US citizens protected by LTC planning.