The cost of long-term care insurance nearly doubles for a person now 55 years old compared to a 65-year-old buying the same coverage, according to the newly-released 2008 Long-Term Care Insurance Price Index.

   As the mass of baby boomers reaches retirement age and people in general are living longer, long-term care insurance is poised to play a greater role in financial planning. That said, the "natural tendency of consumers, especially in difficult economic times, (is) to put off planning for long-term care," says Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, which prepared the price comparisons.

   Rates in 2008 are up 4% over last year and are anticipated to increase each year going forward, but the cost also increases depending upon the age of the consumer. A 55-year-old married person purchasing $100-per-day benefit for a maximum of three years would pay an average of $709 a year and a single person would pay $1,095, which includes in-home care. The same policy for a 65-year-old is $1,342 annually for a married individual and $1,999 for a single person. Similar differences are found for policies providing additional benefits.

   Another study done by the AALTCI--this one of companies that wrote 250,000 individual long-term care insurance policies in 2007--found that 51.5% of applicants in their 50s qualify for preferred health discounts versus 42.2% who waited until their 60s. While long-term care is generally used by people in the later stages of life, the association's data found that 12.5% of new claims filed in 2007 involved people younger than 70 years old.