Americans are shunning long-term-care insurance policies, even as the need for some form of health care planning in old age is growing.

As the population ages and Americans in general live longer, long-term health care costs are becoming an increasing concern -- but sales of traditional LTC policies, which cover in-home and nursing home care, have decreased sharply over the past 15 years.

According to a report earlier this year from the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, Americans purchased 105,000 new LTC policies in 2015, down from 750,000 policies purchased in 2000. The group credits rising costs for new products, in-force rate increases on existing policies, and increasing longevity and health as reasons for the decline.

Ash Toumayants, founder of State College, Penn.-based Strong Tower Associates, argues that many Americans don’t think they’ll ever need to use a long-term-care insurance policy, which he claims is a dangerous assumption.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of Americans turning 65 years old this year will eventually need some amount of long-term care.

“People are worried about the future of health care,” Toumayants says. “They don’t know what is going to happen to the cost. They realize that the quality of government-funded care is not as appealing to people with the assets to take care of themselves. They’re less willing to leave their potential long-term care for the future to take care of itself.”

According to LifeHappens, a not-for-profit marketing agency created by a consortium of insurers, the cost of eight hours of daily in-home care is now about $44,000 a year, while a year of skilled nursing home care costs about $91,000.

Yet Americans seem to underestimate the cost of long-term care. According to a recent Genworth Financial study, 30 percent of respondents believed that long-term care costs less than $417 a month. Another 28 percent thought it cost between $417 and $1,666 per month.

Most Americans also underestimate the cost of unplanned long-term care on families, says Deb Newman, founder of Minneapolis-based Newman Long Term Care and past chair of the LIFE Foundation.

“People need long-term-care insurance because without it people don’t really discover when care needs start,” Newman says. “What starts happening is that the family members start delivering care. It doesn’t matter which economic stratus the family is at, they start caring for the people they love the most.”

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